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Epstein charges show Congress must act to protect children from abuse

Epstein charges show Congress must act to protect children from abuse
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It’s been said by the men and women who fight sexual predators that the bad guys care more than the rest of us do.  

Take Jeffrey Epstein’s offer this week to put up $100 million in bail money (surely his own, no bail bondsman would touch that deal) on charges of child sex trafficking. That’s more than Congress has ever done when it comes to protecting children from predators like him. Epstein might be rich, but he doesn’t have Congress’s money. Yet, year after year, congressional appropriators squeeze out less than Epstein’s offer for the entire national Missing and Exploited Children’s budget.

Why do the human rights cops say the bad guys care more than the good guys? First, the predators are intensely dedicated to their pursuits, and they far outnumber the protectors. And while most don’t have private jets and bottomless wallets, they seem perpetually five steps ahead of law enforcement on the technology front.

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They are committed. We are less so.

There’s one more reason. Too many good people, as the quote goes in “A Few Good Men,” “can’t handle the truth.”

Last week, I sat with a group of wounded, ill and injured service members training for a new mission in law enforcement with the Human Exploitation Rescue Operative (HERO) Child-Rescue Corps, as they listened intently to a computer forensic analyst who prepared them for the horrors they would see investigating child sexual exploitation:

Images of infants having their diapers removed and being raped. Video of young children bound and gagged. Audio of children screaming in fear and pain. Our speaker shared that it is sometimes too much to bear, but she does it because she knows there are children out there waiting for rescue. 

After years of hearings, members of Congress are aware that children have been turned into sexual commodities in this black market. And they know the exact line item in the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) appropriations bill that would fund this fight for our children: the Missing and Exploited Children’s (MEC) budget. 

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The MEC budget provides federal funding for the national network of child rescue teams like the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task forces. It also funds the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and the AMBER Alert program. 

NCMEC receives essential child exploitation tips from industry and the public. Although those leads have been growing exponentially, from 1.1 million in 2014 to 18.4 million last year, federal ICAC funding has remained flat, leaving countless victims without the help they need.

Last month, House appropriators, thanks to years of bipartisan effort by Reps. Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzOn The Money: Democrats accuse Mnuchin of sabotaging economy in dispute with Fed | Trump administration proposal takes aim at bank pledges to avoid fossil fuel financing | JPMorgan: Economy will shrink in first quarter due to COVID-19 spike OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats push Biden to pick Haaland as next Interior secretary | Trump administration proposal takes aim at bank pledges to avoid fossil fuel financing | Wasserman Schultz pitches climate plan in race to chair Appropriations Wasserman Schultz pitches climate plan in race to chair Appropriations MORE (D-Fla.) and Martha RobyMartha Dubina RobyThe year of the Republican woman Barry Moore wins Alabama GOP runoff to replace Martha Roby The 14 other key races to watch on Super Tuesday MORE (R-Ala.), increased ICAC’s share of funding by 33 percent. However, to prevent cuts to NCMEC and the AMBER Alert program, Senate appropriators must now increase the MEC budget by a corresponding amount. 

That means increasing the House funding level by $10 million, to $95 million, while keeping the House ICAC increase intact. 

America can’t seem to get enough news about human trafficking, or alleged powerful, well-connected predators. Those are crimes we can talk about in polite company. The flourishing marketplace for the rape and torture of young children — an emergency far, far larger — is still an almost taboo subject. 

But senators can handle the truth. We need them to.

If Senate Justice appropriations leaders Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranIt's time for Congress to act: Save jobs and stabilize the aerospace industry Lobbying world This World Suicide Prevention Day, let's recommit to protecting the lives of our veterans MORE (R-Kan.) and Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenTop Democrat calls Trump's Afghan drawdown 'the right policy decision' as others warn of 'mistake' Overnight Defense: How members of the Armed Services committees fared in Tuesday's elections | Military ballots among those uncounted in too-close-to-call presidential race | Ninth US service member killed by COVID-19 Biden wins New Hampshire MORE (D-N.H.) hear the cries of these children, they will act. Their colleagues on the CJS Subcommittee, Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiTrump administration denies permit for controversial Pebble Mine Trump transition order follows chorus of GOP criticism The Memo: Trump election loss roils right MORE (R-Alaska), Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience Durbin seeks to become top-ranking Democrat on Judiciary panel Feinstein to step down as top Democrat on Judiciary Committee MORE (D-Vt.) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - COVID-19 fears surround Thanksgiving holiday Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight Whitehouse says Democratic caucus will decide future of Judiciary Committee MORE (D-Calif.), all co-sponsored the PROTECT Our Children Act of 2008, which authorized annual ICAC funding at twice its current level.

Add to that group Texas Republican Sen. Joh­n Cornyn, a longtime champion of ICACs, and there is no reason good, determined leaders cannot deliver a $95 million MEC budget now.

Let’s start proving that the bad guys are not the only truly committed ones. 

Grier Weeks, a senior executive with the National Association to Protect Children (PROTECT), has testified on child exploitation before House and Senate committees.