Vote Notes: S.782, PROTECT Our Children Act
If I may return to a vote from last week...and a vote I took to reauthorize programs of the Department of Justice (DOJ) that help federal, state, and local law enforcement better coordinate and enhance their efforts to combat the online exploitation of children. Exploitation includes crimes like sex trafficking and child pornography.
Without doubt, the internet has become a major part of daily life. It is often a force for good...we can communicate and share information with anyone in the world in an instant. But it’s sadly no surprise either that criminals and would-be criminals also use the internet, as they seek to do harm to children. Indeed, last year alone, the task forces reauthorized by this bill conducted some 61,000 investigations and made more than 9,300 arrests for these types of crimes.
This bill will help law enforcement continue to fight crimes against children through an integrated strategy that provides training and support across all levels of government. It also provides grants to state task forces that conduct investigations and prosecute criminals. Since 2008, DOJ has been instructed to build a nationwide data system which would provide law enforcement a secure undercover network to conduct online investigations and share information - such as on high-priority suspects - in real-time.
That’s the good news. The bad news on this issue come in two forms. One, according to a government report, there have been challenges to getting a useable system up and running. I will be watching here to see what further changes come with this reauthorization on that front.
The second challenge is more profound, and for that reason, I struggled with this vote. If it had just been about federal grants to local and state law enforcement, I would have voted no. Regardless of how great the cause, the federal government cannot remain the mothership on funding a host of worthy priorities. The federal government should do what only the federal government can do.
And this is where it became delicate. There is a role for the federal government in interstate activities. Given the ways in which internet traffic crosses not only state lines but nation state lines as well, I thought the bias in the vote was tipped to the yes column and, accordingly, voted as I did.
It passed the House on a 417 to 3 vote and previously by unanimous consent in the Senate. It will now go to the president for his signature.