On April 10, the House voted, 400-25, to adopt the conference report on a child crimes measure known as the AMBER bill. S. 151the PROTECT Actincorporated the Child Abduction Prevention Act (H.R. 1104), which passed the House, 410-14, on March 27 (see The Source, 3/28). The Senate also voted, 98-0, on April 10 to adopt the measure, clearing the bill for the President’s signature.
While the Senate passed a separate AMBER Alert bill in January (see The Source, 1/24/03), the House bill, sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chair James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), included the AMBER provisions in an omnibus bill that contained numerous other measures, including provisions stiffening penalties for child murderers and kidnappers (see The Source, 3/21/03). The recent recovery of Elizabeth Smart, the Utah teenager kidnapped from her home last year, focused renewed attention on the AMBER Alert system, and many urged Congress to pass swiftly the AMBER Alert provisions as a separate bill. Despite pressure from both sides of the aisle–and Elizabeth Smart’s father–Rep. Sensenbrenner refused to allow the AMBER provisions to pass the House without attaching broader legislation.
Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT) reiterated his objections after passage of the omnibus bill, calling the AMBER Alert a “sweetener for a package of other controversial provisions that the Senate has not previously considered. … We will never know how many children could have been saved by a nationwide AMBER Planif the House had simply passed our bill when the Senate did.”
Rep. Sensenbrenner said the passage marked “a great day for parents and a big defeat for the vile predators that prey upon our kids. By taking forceful steps to prevent, investigate, and prosecute crimes against children, this legislation constitutes the most important and far-reaching child protection legislation in the past twenty years.”