Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) criticized President Barack Obama's executive order on government contractors using forced labor, in a Wednesday interview with The Christian Post. The executive order will not close the loophole in the law that enables government contractors to use forced labor. Obama should work through the legislative process and support his bill, the End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act of 2012, which would close the loophole, Lankford argued.
"It makes for a great speech, it makes for great politics, and you can put it up right before the election and say, 'look I'm standing up for the oppressed,' when in reality what we need is for his legislative office to engage with the Senate and help us get it passed, so we can actually fix the process," Lankford said.
"This president just skips the legislative process, issues an executive order and thinks it's done. It's not done at that point. It might have been shorter for you, but that's not leadership, that's shortcuts. We don't need shortcuts at this point, we need solutions."
Obama issued an executive order Tuesday aimed at strengthening his administration's efforts to combat human trafficking. In a speech at the Clinton Global Summit meeting in New York, Obama asserted that "American tax dollars must never, ever be used to support the trafficking of human beings. We will have zero tolerance."
But the problem, according to Lankford, is that Obama's executive order does not address the root of the problem. The problem of government contractors using forced labor has existed for 20 years, Lankford explained, because fraud, as defined in the law for companies doing business in the United States, does not exist overseas, such as on military bases. The End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act of 2012 would close this loophole in the law, but Obama's executive order does not. Additionally, Lankford's bill would be applicable to both contractors and grant recipients, but Obama's executive order only applies to grant recipients.
The White House legislative office contacted Lankford on Monday, the day before Obama announced the executive order at the Clinton Global Summit, to inform him that the executive order would be modeled after his bill.
"My frustration was, and my concern is, that we now consider this done, we have an executive order so it's finished," Lankford said.
There have been 20 executive orders, according to Lankford, over the past 20 years that tried to address the issue but were unsuccessful.
"When it's a gap in the law it has to be resolved in the law," Lankford said.
The bill, H.R. 4259, was passed in the House and is awaiting action in the Senate. There is bipartisan support in the Senate, Lankford said, and there are plans to bring the bill to the floor during the lame duck session after the election.
Lankford also criticized Obama for praising the work of Catholics on behalf of human trafficking victims after his administration denied funding to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) for the purpose of helping the victims of human trafficking. The USCCB was denied last year, House investigators later discovered, because it would not provide referrals for abortion and contraceptive services, which is against Catholic teaching.
The purpose of the grant is to help human trafficking victims who are found by law enforcement get basic services, such as food, shelter and medical care.
The Catholic bishops "have been the anchor for us, nationwide, for the last five years, dealing with human trafficking with our federal contract, and have been the sole contractor for us as a nation, since the initiative has taken on, and have stellar, stellar grades, through the process. They were not renewed solely because they would not promote abortions," Lankford said.