Republicans fight to reauthorize Debbie Smith Act

In Local Area News

Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, today introduced a resolution to bring the Debbie Smith Act to the House floor for a vote.

The Debbie Smith Act would provide funding to address the rape kit backlog, which reached approximately 169,000 in 2017. Democrats have prevented a clean reauthorization of the Debbie Smith Act from coming to the floor for consideration.

“Democrats allowed the Debbie Smith Act to expire 16 days ago. Today, Judiciary Democrats let another markup pass without considering this crucial legislation. Their political actions have endangered a vital resource that helps sexual assault survivors and victims bring their perpetrators to justice.

“Thousands of sexual assault and rape survivors have been waiting months or years for justice because their rape kits remain untested. The Debbie Smith Act helps law enforcement test rape kits more quickly and deliver justice more swiftly. The Senate has passed this legislation unanimously, so the only barrier standing between this bill and the president’s desk is House Democrats,” 
said Collins.

Original cosponsors include Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), John Ratcliffe (R-Texas), Martha Roby (R-Ala.), Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.), Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.), Ben Cline (R-Va.), Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.) and Ann Wagner (R-Mo.).

 “As the primary author of the 2004 Justice for All Act, I was proud to gather a widely-bipartisan coalition of supporters. Now, as one of the key provisions of that bill—the Debbie Smith Act—has expired, we need to restore the same spirit of bipartisanship and reauthorize it without delay. I thank Ranking Member Collins for his leadership and join my colleagues in urging the Speaker to bring it up for immediate consideration and passage,” said Sensenbrenner. 

“The Debbie Smith Act was enacted 15 years ago to help eradicate the overwhelming rape kit backlog of untested and unanalyzed DNA that is critical for ensuring justice for the victims of violent sex crimes. But instead of extending this bipartisan legislation on behalf of countless victims of sexual assault ahead of its September 30 expiration date, my Democratic colleagues have declined a vote on reauthorization in favor of their partisan political games. I urge my colleagues to stand up for justice against sexual violence by immediately taking action to renew this bill,” said Ratcliffe. 

“The Debbie Smith Act is an important, bipartisan piece of legislation that provides funds to bolster DNA evidence testing and address existing backlogs in processing this evidence related to sexual assault. I’m proud to co-sponsor this bill to offer hope to victims and survivors of these heinous crimes, and I implore my colleagues to support this resolution to bring the Debbie Smith Act to the House floor for a vote,” said Roby.

“Justice delayed is justice denied. This bipartisan bill is a crucial step in the fight against sexual assault and will enable crime labs across the nation to expeditiously process backlogged rape kits. I’m proud to be an original cosponsor of this bill and trust this initiative will enable law enforcement to take swift action against violent sexual offenders,” said Gaetz. 

“Democrats have been so focused on pursuing a baseless impeachment of President Trump that they allowed this critical legislation to reduce the rape kit backlog to expire. When I offered a motion to reauthorize the bill last month, Democrats refused. This is unconscionable. I urge my Democratic colleagues to put their politics aside and pass this legislation as quickly as possible,” said Lesko. 

“House Democrats need to stop holding the Debbie Smith Reauthorization Act hostage just so they can score cheap political points. Before I came to Congress, I served as a district judge where I handled preliminary hearings for cases of sexual assault and rape. Many of these victims went through a grueling evidence collection process in the hopes that it would help catch their rapist. But in their refusal to bring the Debbie Smith Act to the floor, House Democrats are delaying justice for these victims all while their attackers roam our streets. Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats need to re-examine their priorities, bring up the Debbie Smith Reauthorization Act, and help us get justice for crime victims,” said Reschenthaler. 

“As a former prosecutor, I know all too well how the Debbie Smith Act has been vital to reducing DNA backlogs in sexual violence cases. I urge the Speaker to bring this bill to the Floor so we can protect people from violent sexual predators and allow justice to be served through our legal system,” said Cline. 

“The Debbie Smith Act helps address the backlog of untested rape kits and other DNA evidence, which is essential to securing convictions in rape and sexual assault cases. The law has a 15-year history of nearly unanimous support in Congress, under both Republican and Democratic majorities and presidents. There is no reason it should be used as a bargaining chip. It’s bipartisan, it’s common-sense, and it protects victims,” said Armstrong. 

“The Debbie Smith Act provides critical funding that can help law enforcement end the rape kit backlog and put violent predators behind bars. This is legislation that has been reauthorized in a bipartisan manner since 2005, and victims who have undergone rape kit testing rely on this legislation in their fight for justice. It is unconscionable that Speaker Pelosi is playing politics with victims of sexual assault. If a victim bravely endures the additional trauma of a sexual assault forensic exam, it is our duty to test all resulting evidence. Victims trust us to do our jobs and authorize these programs. It’s time we live up to that responsibility and vote on the Debbie Smith Act,” said Wagner. 

The Debbie Smith Act provides grants to help crime labs process DNA evidence. The bill received bipartisan support when it was reauthorized in 2008 and 2014.

The Debbie Smith Act expired on September 30, and the Senate sent S. 820 to the House of Representatives in May of this year. The bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee, but committee Democrats have taken no action on the bill. 

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