FORT WALTON BEACH — U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz cast the lone “no” vote earlier this month on a bipartisan human trafficking bill that sailed through the House and the Senate with otherwise unanimous support.
The bill, dubbed the Combating Human Trafficking in Commercial Vehicles Act, seeks to give the federal government more resources to fight sex slavery in the United States, particularly addressing how human trafficking occurs on Department of Transportation roads such as Interstate 10.
The bill passed in the Senate with unanimous support in September before moving on to the House, where it passed Dec. 19 by a vote of 418-1.
Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, defended his vote Wednesday, saying he always votes no on bills that establish more government entities.
“I vote against all bills that create new federal boards, agencies, commissions or councils,” Gaetz said. “For all the problems we have, not enough entities in the federal government is not one of them.”
If signed into law, the bill would allow the government to appoint an official to coordinate human trafficking prevention efforts across Department of Transportation modal administrations, create an independent advisory committee on human trafficking and expand outreach and financial assistance programs for the recognition, prevention and reporting of human trafficking.
But Gaetz, who said he was “very involved in combating human trafficking” while he served as the Criminal Justice Committee chairman in the Florida House of Representatives, said he believed the law would create more headaches than help.
“Allowing people to travel around on the government’s dime, creating more paperwork ... it’s not the right answer to nearly any problem we face,” he said.
One of Gaetz’s opponents in the upcoming 2018 election, Republican Cris Dosev of Pensacola, issued a statement Wednesday condemning the representative as “out of touch.”
“That Matt Gaetz could vote against a law to fight human trafficking and sex slave trade is beyond comprehension,” Dosev said in the statement. “What was he thinking? ... Near unanimous bipartisan support on this should be a clear indication that the American people will not tolerate human trafficking.”
The bill’s next stop is the desk of President Donald Trump, where it is expected to be signed into law.