WASHINGTON (AP) – Targeting child kidnappers, molesters and pornographers, Congress overwhelmingly passed a package of child safety protections, including a national Amber Alert network.
The House passed the bill 400-25 hours before the Senate approved in on a 98-0 vote. The legislation now goes to President Bush, who is expected to sign it.
The network, which will be maintained by state and municipal governments, distributes information quickly through radio and television broadcasts and electronic highway signs, about kidnapped children and their abductors.
“The safety and well-being of our children is a shared priority for all Americans,” Bush said in a statement. “We must use every available resource to find and safely return missing children to their families and their homes and we must use every available tool to vigorously prosecute and punish those who would do our children harm.”
House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin called the finished bill “the most important and far-reaching child protection legislation in the past 20 years.”
Sensenbrenner and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) shepherded the stronger criminal penalties through the House by attaching them to the popular Amber Alert kidnapping-notification legislation. That measure was sought by the family of Elizabeth Smart, who was recovered in March after being taken from her bedroom in Salt Lake City last year.
“The overarching goal of this comprehensive package is to stop those who prey on children before they can harm children,” said Sensenbrenner.
The Senate never debated the bill before passing it as a House-Senate compromise
The national network would be named after Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old girl abducted in Arlington, Texas, and later found murdered.