The U.S. Senate on Wednesday approved legislation that will provide law enforcement and prosecutors the tools they need to obtain justice for human trafficking victims and hold websites that knowingly facilitate sex trafficking accountable.
The measure, which passed the Senate overwhelmingly by a vote of 97-2, will be sent to President Donald Trump’s desk for his signature. The bill passed the House in February by a vote of 388-25 and is backed by a broad coalition of anti-trafficking advocates, law enforcement organizations, civil rights groups, faith-based advocates, and industry leaders.
H.R. 1865 was introduced by U.S. Representative Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin and includes provisions from a similar Senate measure, introduced by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.
The bills passage comes after a bipartisan effort between Rep. Wagner and U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, who reached across party lines to pass the legislation.
“I applaud the Senate on their steadfast commitment to the fight against online sex trafficking and the work they did on critical, pro-victim sections of FOSTA,” Congresswoman Wagner said in a statement. “Together, and with the support of trafficking advocates, prosecutors, and law enforcement across the country, the 115th Congress has passed legislation that will give survivors the long-overdue justice they deserve and ensure that fewer victims are ever sold online in the first place. FOSTA will finally give local, state, and federal prosecutors the tools they need to put predators behind bars. Congress does not believe—and did not ever believe—that sex trafficking is a prerequisite of the free and open internet. I look forward to President Trump signing FOSTA into law.”
Rep. Wagner’s Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) targets online content that promotes or facilitates prostitution, making it punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
The bill also received support from U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, R-Misouri, who co-sponsored the bill and spoke on the Senate floor in support of the bill last week.
“Human trafficking is a heinous crime that happens every day in our country, driven in large part by websites that operate as online marketplaces for sex traffickers,” Blunt said in a statement. “For too long, federal law has shielded websites that knowingly profit off the sexual exploitation of trafficking victims. This bill provides law enforcement and prosecutors the tools they need to seek justice for trafficking victims and hold websites that knowingly facilitate these crimes accountable. I commend Senator Rob Portman and Representative Ann Wagner for their leadership and tireless efforts to combat human trafficking.”
Wagner’s office, which represents the 2nd District, is located right outside of St. Louis city and includes parts of Jefferson, St. Charles and St. Louis counties. She announced her run for re-election earlier this month.
Wagner’s 2nd District, which was once a largely ignored district for the Democrats, has become one of their most desired seats as they attempt to wrestle control back from the GOP majority in both chambers.