Senate unanimously passes bill to strengthen crime victims fund

Senate unanimously passes bill to strengthen crime victims fund
© Greg Nash

The Senate voted 100-0 on Tuesday to strengthen and provide a new revenue source for the Crime Victims Fund, which was established in 1984 and provides grants for victim services.

The bill already passed the House in March and now heads to President BidenJoe BidenGOP report on COVID-19 origins homes in on lab leak theory READ: The .2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Senators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session MORE's desk for a signature.

The legislation provides new money for the fund, which lawmakers have warned is running low, by allowing for revenues collected from deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements to be deposited. The fund is currently supported by criminal penalties and forfeitures, among other revenue sources.

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"For nearly 35 years the Justice Department has operated a crime victims fund that uses money from federal convictions and fines to help survivors of violent crime. ... But today this popular and effective program is in danger of going into the red," Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerManchin on reported boos at Democratic luncheon: 'I heard a lot of nos' Wisconsin GOP quietly prepares Ron Johnson backup plans Senate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session MORE (D-N.Y.) said ahead of the vote.

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session Manchin 'can't imagine' supporting change to filibuster for voting rights Biden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet MORE (Ky.) pointed to the bill as an example of the Senate being able to do "some bipartisan legislating."

“This fund needs to rest on firm financial footing. But right now, it doesn’t. Its balance has been shrinking fast. Congress needs to act to prevent big cuts to victims’ services, particularly in rural areas," McConnell added.

Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyBlack women look to build upon gains in coming elections Watch live: GOP senators present new infrastructure proposal Sasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote MORE (R-Pa.) offered an amendment ahead of the Senate's vote to try to ensure that the money in the fund went toward victims, arguing that the current rules allow for it to be held back and used to circumvent spending caps under the budget rules.

"It was an abuse based on an arcane and ridiculous budget rule," Toomey said. 

Though the Senate rejected Toomey's change, the GOP senator still voted for the bill. 

Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sets new vaccine mandate as COVID-19 cases surge House clears .1 billion Capitol security bill, sending to Biden Senate passes .1 billion Capitol security bill MORE (D-Vt.), the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, argued that Toomey's amendment, by setting a minimum threshold for yearly spending of the fund, would tie the hands of the panel and "delay the movement of any Appropriations bill that the crime victims fund is a part of."