House Democrats Lose Bid on Amber Alert
JESSE J. HOLLAND
Mar. 26, 2003
WASHINGTON (AP) _ House Democrats on Wednesday lost a last-ditch attempt to push the Senate's popular Amber Alert legislation directly to the president.
The House's Republican majority, instead, readied consideration a package of child protection measures that includes the national child kidnapping notification network legislation.
The House plans to consider the GOP package on Thursday, after defeating by 219-198 Democratic attempts to bring the Senate legislation up for consideration. That version contains just the kidnapping notification network.
Some Democrats, like Rep. Rush D. Holt, D-N.J., accused Republicans of coming up with a larger bill ``designed to prevent Amber Alert from passing'' by forcing the Senate into protracted negotiations in a conference committee.
But Republicans like Rep. John Linder, R-Ga., argued that the Senate-passed legislation needed fixing and the House should move ahead with its own legislation, which Republicans consider stronger and more effective.
``I don't believe we serve in this House simply to pass legislation deemed acceptable to the other body,'' Linder said.
The Amber Alert federal legislation passed by the Senate would create a national child kidnapping notification network and provide matching grants to states and communities for equipment and training.
The GOP legislation, pushed by House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., would do many other things, among them: deny pretrial release for child rapists and abductors; eliminate the statute of limitations on child abductions and sex crimes; allow judges to extend to life the supervised term of released sex offenders and require life sentences for twice-convicted sex offenders.
``What we're doing is holding hostage the Amber Alert bill because some members in the other party want the other provisions, which indications are the Senate will not accept,'' said Rep. Martin Frost, D-Texas, who has been pushing for the House to take the Senate language.
But Republicans said it is just as important to prevent children from being kidnapped as it is to find them once they've been taken from their parents.
``I also agree that Amber Alert needs to be passed but I think it's just as important that there be punishment for the abduction of these children, because any parent is thankful to get their child back but they don't want that person out in the street so they can do it again,'' said Rep. Sue Myrick, R-N.C.
President Bush last year rebuked the GOP-controlled House for not passing the Senate's legislation, but the White House on Wednesday offered support for the GOP package.
``The administration strongly supports House passage of H.R. 1104,'' a White House statement said. ``The bill would greatly strengthen law enforcement's ability to prevent, investigate, and prosecute violent crimes committed against children.''
Bush last year ordered the Justice Department to develop a national standard for the Amber Alert electronic notifications to limit the alerts to ``rare instances of serious child abductions'' and ensure their effectiveness is not undermined by overuse.
The Justice Department also set up a national Amber Alert coordinator to increase cooperation among state and local operations.