Dem Dick Durbin blocks bill to toughen child pornography sentences: ‘I have to ask myself—why now?’

Talk about bad optics, Democrats objected to proposed legislation seeking to toughen the penalty for those convicted of child pornography.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., requested unanimous consent over his PROTECT Act of 2022, which sets a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for child pornography offenders, and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., rose to object, saying: “I have to ask myself—why now?”

“The horror of child pornography is exponentially worse than it was a decade ago, and judges handing out lenient sentences for these criminals is a big reason why,” Hawley said last week, when introducing the measure. “While the White House continues to dismiss concerns about leniency toward child porn offenders as a ‘desperate conspiracy theory,’ the numbers speak for themselves. Congress must act before this problem becomes even worse.”

Durbin, who is the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman and Democratic whip, said the bill, which was modeled after a similar bill that passed in 2003, “doesn’t reflect the realities of today.”

The Democrat argued that the law was created to address “physical materials,” like videotapes and photos, and that the internet is a gamechanger because child pornography is much easier to obtain.

“We know that in 2005, that decision was handed down. We know in 2012, the Sentencing Commission said to Congress and to the world, you need to do something here. These guidelines that you promulgated don’t reflect the reality of today,” Durbin said.

“The laws were written in an era where the materials we’re talking about were physical materials and we now live in a world of internet and access to … tens of thousands of images if that is your decision,” he added.

Durbin even played the QAnon card: “There are some political groups—at least one well-known political group—that manufactures theories about child pornography and pedophilia and the like, and even inspires deadly reactions to them, and they’re cheering this on.”

(QAnon conspiracists believe high-level government and Hollywood are involved in a vast pedophile ring.)

Of course, Durbin’s real motivation to block the movement likely centers around the confirmation vote later this week over Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who Republicans have grilled over what they see as lenient sentencing for those convicted of child pornography.

Hawley took to Twitter about his bill being stalled: “I just went to the Senate floor to try to pass a bill toughening sentences on child pornographers. And the Democrats blocked it, again calling the child porn crisis a ‘conspiracy theory.’ And that tells you everything you need to know.”

Jack Posobiec responded to Durbin’s action in a tweet: “Holy funking shlit.”

Here’s a sampling of other responses to the story from Twitter:

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