Modern Day Slavery: Can Congress End One of the World's Fastest Growing Crimes?
Human trafficking is one of the largest and fastest growing crimes in the world. In Washington, lawmakers are addressing the issue head on, voting on 13 pieces of legislation this week aimed at bringing an end to modern day slavery.
It's estimated that more than 20 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking, with cases reported in every state in the U.S.
"So many times you find it around the world, but it's right here in America. They had more than 7,000 cases just last year reported," House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said.
This week, Congress zeroed in on the issue, passing a number of bills aimed at protecting victims and increasing punishments for convicted offenders.
A top priority is dealing with legal loopholes that predators take advantage of to avoid being convicted.
Republican Rep. Martha Roby's Global Child Protection Act would close those loopholes.
"Under the current definitions, it does deal with people who travel abroad to have sex with children, but the definitions don't include people who travel abroad to force children to do sexual acts on them," the Alabama lawmaker told CBN News.
"It's these types of unintended loopholes in the criminal code where Congress can change the law," she said.
And Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., is also offering a measure that would prevent criminals from getting away on a technicality.
Johnson's bill deals with a 2015 case where a man who recorded a sexual assault on a child was able to escape a federal conviction.
"There's a provision where the courts have said if a predator has sexual activity with a minor and they record any of those images on their phone, their smart phone, other devices, and they didn't intend to record them, then somehow they'd be able to evade prosecution," he told CBN News.
"We think that's outrageous," he charged. "It's a violation of Congress's obvious intent to protect the most defenseless among us."
Meanwhile, Congress has another major item on its plate with the release of President Donald Trump's budget plan of over $4 trillion.
The White House budget reduces Washington's spending plans for future years.
"The budget's a framework, and what's so refreshing here is how honest he is in the process, that he balances a budget in 10 years. We have not had that in the last administration," McCarthy said.
But Democrats quickly attacked the proposal, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., calling it a "nightmare" that hurts the middle class and relies on "fantasy numbers."
And while not all Republicans gave it a ringing endorsement, many are encouraged to see the Trump administration taking steps to try to limit spending, eventually balance the budget and help get the economy growing strongly.
"When I look at what else he's doing in the budget, he's looking at welfare reform, actually putting people back to work, giving them a sense of accomplishment at the same time," McCarthy said.
"Those are tough things to do," he noted. "And sometimes you get politically attacked for it, but in the end you create and help individuals to buy homes, send their kids to college."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says the president's budget is just a recommendation, and now it's up to Congress to figure out what to do with it.