U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor today prior to the Senate voting on a bipartisan resolution regarding human trafficking:
“Let me begin by stating an obvious point. When it comes to filling the current Supreme Court vacancy — which could fundamentally alter the direction of the court for a generation — Republicans and Democrats simply disagree.
“Republicans think the people deserve a voice in this critical discussion. The President does not. So we disagree in this instance, and as a result we logically act as a check and balance.
“There’s no reason one area of disagreement should stop us from looking for other areas of agreement though. We’ll continue our work in the Senate as the American people make their voices heard in this important national conversation.
“For instance we’ll address another very important issue today, which I’d like to tell you about now…Senator Portman and Senator McCaskill are the top Republican and top Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
“Over the past year, they’ve worked together in a bipartisan way to examine human trafficking.
“Their probe has revealed how trafficking has flourished in the age of the Internet. It’s also revealed how many cases of sex-trafficking — including cases involving children — have been linked to one website in particular: Backpage.com.
“One national group that tracks the issue has told the subcommittee this: nearly three-quarters of all suspected child-sex trafficking reports it receives from the public through its tip line have a connection to Backpage.
“Chairman Portman and the Ranking Member from Missouri have wanted to do something about this. They know they have to keep investigating.
“So they issued a subpoena to Backpage. They wanted documents about the company’s business practices. They wanted to know how it screens advertisements for warning signs of trafficking. And, as the leaders of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, they had every right to make these requests in the course of their investigation.
“But Backpage has refused to comply. Does that mean Senators Portman and McCaskill gave up? Of course not, and we shouldn’t either.
“They jointly introduced a Senate resolution that would hold the company in civil contempt and force it to turn over this required information.
“This resolution passed through committee with unanimous bipartisan support 15 to 0.
“And today it can pass the full Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support too. We’ll have that opportunity this afternoon. If we do, it will allow the Senate’s Legal Counsel to bring a civil suit in court and ask the court to order compliance with the subpoena.
“That’s critical for allowing this bipartisan investigation to move forward.
“I thank Ranking Member McCaskill for all she’s done. I thank Chairman Portman for all he’s done.
“We saw Senator Portman’s great work last week in passing bipartisan legislation to help address America’s heroin and opioid crisis.
“We’re again seeing Senator Portman’s great work in leading on another important issue, and doing so once more in a bipartisan way.”