The Senate is expected to consider legislation as early as Monday that is aimed at preventing online sex trafficking and improving actions to hold traffickers accountable.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told members last week that they will move to the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act after considering the banking bill, two GOP sources tell CNN.
The bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in the House last week and later received an endorsement from the White House. With 67 Senate cosponsors, it is expected to pass the Senate as well.
As there appear to be only a few outspoken opponents – the most prominent of whom is Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon – one aide predicted to CNN that proceedings on the legislation could finish up within a day or two. That being said, it’s expected that several members will want to speak on the floor in favor of the bill, which could take some time.
Wyden said in a statement he opposes the measure for fear that politicians are not tech-savvy enough to understand the technological side effects of the bill.
“The failure to understand the technological side effects of this bill – specifically that it will become harder to expose sex-traffickers, while hamstringing innovation – will be something that this Congress will regret,” he said.
This particular sex-trafficking issue was punted to Congress after the Supreme Court turned down a case January 2017 against Backpage.com by sex-trafficking victims in Massachusetts. As it stands, federal law protects websites like Backpage.com, which is similar to Craigslist, from being held accountable for content published on their sites. It has, in essence, provided a penalty-free zone for sex-traffickers to conduct their business.
This measure would make the websites liable for crimes committed on their sites, allowing state attorneys general to prosecute such sites for violating federal sex trafficking laws, something they cannot do under current federal law.
Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, confirmed that the Senate would consider the sex-trafficking bill soon and said he’s pushing for a time agreement to speed the legislative process along.
“I’m hopeful we’ll be able to get a time agreement so it could be just a couple of days, or it could take all week, as this banking bill’s taking,” Portman told reporters.
CNN’s Ted Barrett and Lauren Fox contributed to this report.