09.25.13

Leahy Applauds Senate Passage Of Legislation To Reauthorize National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

President Expected To Sign Bill Into Law

WASHINGTON – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) welcomed the chamber’s unanimous approval Wednesday of bipartisan legislation to extend a successful program supporting efforts to find missing and exploited children.

The House overwhelmingly approved the measure to reauthorize the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) more than a week ago, but despite the bill’s broad bipartisan support, its passage in the Senate was delayed over anonymous objections. The Center’s current charter is set to expire at the end of the month. The reauthorization now goes to the President for signature. 

“This important measure will ensure that the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children can continue its critical and lifesaving work on behalf of some of the most vulnerable children in our communities,” Leahy said. “Congress has now renewed its obligation to do everything we can to quickly locate a missing child and to protect all our children from being victimized by predators by passing this important legislation.” 

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) was first launched nearly three decades ago.  In that time, NCMEC has helped law enforcement in the recovery of more than 188,000 missing children through the use of a 24-hour hotline, a National Child Pornography Tipline and a CyberTipline, as well as the circulation of millions of photographs used to help track and identify missing children.  The bill approved on Wednesday extends the program another five years.

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 Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,
On Legislation to Reauthorize the Missing Children’s Assistance Act
September 25, 2013

Last week, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan reauthorization of the Missing Children’s Assistance Act.  This important measure will ensure that the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) can continue its critical and lifesaving work on behalf of some of the most vulnerable children in our communities.  I thank Ranking Member Grassley, as well as the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee for working with me to develop this bipartisan legislation.  The current authorization for NCMEC will expire at the end of the month, so the Senate must take action without delay.  

While I would have preferred a straightforward reauthorization of NCMEC and its programs, I agreed to Ranking Member Grassley’s request to include several additional auditing provisions, which I had hoped would facilitate the bill’s swift passage and enactment.  I also agreed to several changes suggested by the House, working in a bipartisan fashion on this bill which overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives and which is pending before the Senate. Despite working in a bipartisan way, it has already been more than a week since the House sent us the reauthorization bill.  The Senate has been unable to pass this measure by because of an objection on the Republican side.  The Democratic side approved this bill for passage last week.

Once again partisan obstruction got in the way of progress.  No one has explained to me why we could not pass this reauthorization bill without further delay.  The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has served as a vital national resource for law enforcement and families for nearly 30 years, and has assisted law enforcement in the recovery of more than 188,000 missing children.  Of the cases reported to NCMEC from 1990-2012, 97.8 percent have been resolved.  If any Senator has a problem or concern with reauthorization this important work, then that Senator should come to the floor and voice those concerns publicly.  I have heard of no such concerns.

So if there are no substantive concerns with reauthorizing the work of NCMEC, what are we waiting for?  I hope that this reauthorization bill is not falling victim to the same political tantrums thrown by some in an effort to remove funding for our citizens’ healthcare.  Instead of playing politics, the Senate should renew its obligation to do everything we can to quickly locate a missing child and to protect all our children from being victimized by predators by passing this important legislation. 

For nearly 30 years, NCMEC has spearheaded efforts to locate and recover missing children and raise public awareness about how to prevent child abduction, molestation, and sexual exploitation.  The Senate should pass this legislation immediately and not allow the good work of the National Center to be jeopardized.   I ask unanimous consent that the Senate take up and pass H.R.3092, the Missing Children’s Assistance Reauthorization Act of 2013.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children addresses the painful reality that hundreds of thousands of people go missing or are abducted each year.  Sadly, children account for more than 40 percent of the FBI’s active missing persons cases.  The exploitation of children is also a growing problem, particularly in the Internet age.  Between 2004 and 2008, the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces reported a 230 percent increase in the number of documented complaints of online enticement of children.  Perpetrators utilize new technologies to target, contact, manipulate, and entice children so the dangers facing children and their families are greater than ever.

In passing the Missing Children’s Assistance Act in 1984, Congress recognized the need for national leadership to help address the problem of missing and exploited children, and to assist the families of these victims.  The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children was created shortly after passage of that legislation, and has led a number of efforts to combat child exploitation.

NCMEC has created a nationwide, toll free, 24-hour hotline to take reports about missing children and clues that might lead to their recovery; a National Child Pornography Tipline to gather reports on the sexual exploitation of children through the production and distribution of child pornography; and a CyberTipline to process online leads from individuals reporting the sexual exploitation of children.  In addition, NCMEC has circulated millions of photographs of missing children, and serves as a vital resource for law enforcement agencies throughout the Nation in the search for missing children and in the pursuit of adequate child protection.

This legislation before us will allow the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to continue its important role in protecting our children.  We should continue to do everything we can to protect our children.  I am proud to support this bill, which will enable NCMEC to continue its critical work.  I thank my friends on both sides of the aisle for joining me in this effort, and urge the Senate to take immediate action to pass H.R.3092, the Missing Children’s Assistance Reauthorization Act. 

 

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