05.23.16

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee, On the Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act of 2016

Soon the Senate will vote on legislation to reauthorize key elements of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act.  I supported this important law when it was first enacted nearly 10 years ago, and I am proud to be a cosponsor of this reauthorization bill. 

Both the original legislation and the reauthorization bill we are voting on today bear the name of Adam Walsh, a young boy who was abducted and murdered nearly 35 years ago.  Since that tragic day, Adam’s father, John, has been a determined and tireless advocate on behalf of missing and exploited children.  I have worked with John Walsh and others over the years to protect the most vulnerable among us.  As a Senator and former prosecutor – but most importantly, as a father and a grandfather – I take seriously my duty to protect the children of Vermont and every community throughout the country. 

The Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act will reauthorize two important programs that assist state and local law enforcement agencies to monitor and apprehend sex offenders.  Specifically, this legislation authorizes the Attorney General to continue providing grants to state and local law enforcement agencies in their efforts to improve sex offender registry systems.  The bill also reauthorizes funding for grants to improve information sharing and verification, and supports the work of the U.S. Marshals Service in helping state and local law enforcement to locate and apprehend sex offenders who fail to comply with registration requirements.

For more than three decades, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) has served as a national clearinghouse on issues related to missing and exploited children.  I know that the Center works closely with the Marshals and other Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, and the Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act will help further our support for these collaborative efforts.  NCMEC has played a vital role in these efforts, which is why last Congress, I helped lead the fight to reauthorize NCMEC so that it could continue its important work.

The bill also includes an important set of provisions authored by Senator Shaheen to protect the rights of sexual assault survivors, particularly with regard to sexual assault and rape kits.  I want to thank and applaud Senator Shaheen for her hard work and leadership on the Sexual Assault Survivors Rights Act.  As an original cosponsor of her bill, I supported the inclusion of her important measure as part of this bill. 

I encourage all Senators to support this bill.  I hope that the House will take it up and promptly pass it so that it can be signed into law by the President.  There is no need to delay any longer our support for the Federal, state, and local enforcement agencies that work tirelessly to protect the children of our community.  But once this bill become law, our job does not end there.  It is not sufficient to just pay lip service to this issue and allow Congress to pat itself on the back for passing an authorization bill.  Just as we have seen with our efforts to combat the opioid abuse epidemic, a bill that authorizes programs is important and worthy of support – but ultimately an empty promise if it is not backed up with the actual Federal resources that Congress authorizes.  I will keep fighting to ensure that Congress puts its money where its mouth is, and provides the funding that is necessary to support these important efforts. And I will continue fighting to improve our laws so that we protect the most vulnerable in all of our communities.   

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