(The Hill) — Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) was among the 20 House Republicans who voted on Tuesday against a bill that seeks to combat human trafficking.
The legislation, titled the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act, passed in a 401-20 vote, with all opposition coming from Republicans. Eight Republicans and one Democrat did not vote.
Gaetz, who is currently under investigation by the Department of Justice for sex trafficking allegations involving a minor, was among the Republicans who opposed the bill that aims to bolster programs including shelters, mental health care, education and job training for victims of human trafficking.
Gaetz was joined by GOP Reps. Brian Babin (Texas), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Lauren Boebert (Colo.), Mo Brooks (Ala.), Ken Buck (Colo.), Andrew Clyde (Ga.), Louie Gohmert (Texas), Paul Gosar (Ariz.), Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), Andy Harris (Md.), Jody Hice (Ga.), Thomas Massie (Ky.), Tom McClintock (Calif.), Mary Miller (Ill.), Troy Nehls (Texas), Ralph Norman (S.C.), Scott Perry (Pa.), Chip Roy (Texas) and Van Taylor (Texas).
The bill calls for allocating more than $1.1 billion over five years to reapprove and bolster programs that were created under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000.
According to the measure, local educational agencies operating in a high-intensity sex trafficking area or a location with significant child labor trafficking would be prioritized for Frederick Douglass Human Trafficking Prevention Education Grants. Local educational agencies that work with nonprofit organizations focused on human trafficking prevention education and partner with law enforcement would also be prioritized, among other groups.
The legislation would also reauthorize the Department of Homeland Security’s Angel Watch Center, which is meant to prevent international sex tourism travel perpetrated by child sex offenders, and improve trafficking prevention education for children by including parents and law enforcement in child-trafficking and online grooming prevention.
Additionally, it would allocate $35 million each fiscal year for housing options that would help to separate women from their abusers.
News broke last year that Gaetz, who remains close to former President Trump, was under investigation by the Justice Department for allegations that he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old woman and financed her traveling with him. The Florida Republican has denied the assertions, claiming that he and his family “have been victims of an organized criminal extortion.”
Those allegations, however, crept back into the spotlight this week after Marc Short, who served as chief of staff to former Vice President Mike Pence, shot back at Gaetz over criticism of the ex-vice president.
Gaetz, in delivering remarks to Turning Point USA, a conservative student group, said, “Let me just say what everyone here knows: Mike Pence will never be president. Nice guy, not a leader.”
Asked about those comments on Monday, Short told CNN, “Well, I don’t know if Mike Pence will run for president in 2024, but I don’t think Matt Gaetz will have an impact on that. In fact, I’d be surprised if he’s still voting. It’s more likely he’ll be in prison for child trafficking by 2024.”
Short continued: “I’m actually surprised the Florida law enforcement still allows him to speak to teenage conferences like that. So, I’m not too worried what Matt Gaetz thinks.”
When Gatez was asked about his vote, the congressman told The Hill that, “the government’s failure to accurately and specifically define human trafficking allows this legislation to act as a backdoor loophole for illegal immigration and amnesty. The bill also costs over half a billion dollars to implement and gives more taxpayer money to overfunded, inefficient grant programs.”