A picture of Senator Claire McCaskill
Claire M.
Democrat MO

About Sen. Claire
  • Directing Senate Legal Counsel to Bring a Civil Action

    by Senator Claire McCaskill

    Posted on 2016-03-17

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    McCASKILL. Mr. President, last year a 15-year-old girl wandered into an emergency room in St. Louis, told a horrific tale, asking for help. She had been trafficked across truckstops throughout the Midwest, taken from truckstop to truckstop, and sold to truckers for sex--all through backpage. As we debate this today, it is important we stay focused on that 15-year-old girl and don't get lost in the process of the Senate.

    This is a valid investigation. This is an important investigation. What we are doing today is making sure the Senate can do its work under the Constitution. Backpage has refused to cooperate. It has refused to willingly cooperate. It has refused two legitimate and duly authorized subpoenas concerning backpage asking for information at the heart of the investigation.

    Under any circumstances, I find it shocking that a company would refuse a lawful subpoena of the U.S. Senate, would ignore a lawful subpoena of the U.S. Senate. It is particularly outrageous given that backpage has already admitted that serious criminal activity, including sex trafficking of children, occurs on its site. Backpage simply has no excuse for not complying with these legal subpoenas.

    During our November 19 hearing, I promised that while the subcommittee would move forward carefully and cautiously, we would not go quietly into the night, and on some day in the near future we would use the Senate's enforcement measures to compel cooperation from backpage. Today is that day. While we stay focused on that 15-year-old girl, I know I speak for the chairman--and I wish to give the chairman great accolades for our working relationship. It is not always easy to reconcile differences in positions, differences in policy, and staffs working together, but he didn't give up. We both stay at it, and we are both determined to work on this committee in a bipartisan fashion. I am very grateful to him for his effort in that regard.

    As we think of that 15-year-old girl and the information we need, we also need to think that a bigger principle is at stake; that is, if we ignore backpage's refusal, what does that say to companies in the future when we need information in order to do our job? That you can give the back of your hand to the U.S. Senate and there will be no consequences? Obviously, that is a slippery slope I don't think we should go down. I don't think the Founding Fathers would want us to go down that slippery slope.

    That is why today is the day we say enough. We go with this vote to the courts and we get enforcement of these legal subpoenas so we can truly find out what, if any, role backpage has had in the highly illegal and immoral practice of trafficking children for sex.

    I yield the floor.

    I yield back all remaining time for the Democrats.

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