U.S. Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Rob Portman, (R-OH), Dean Heller (R-NV), and Thom Tillis, (R-NC) introduced the bipartisan Missing Children’s Assistance Act of 2018 to maintain federal support that prevents America’s children from abduction and exploitation.

S. 3354, introduced on Aug. 16 by U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), would reauthorize the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and amend the Missing Children’s Assistance Act, among other provisions. U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) also are cosponsors of S. 3354.

“For more than 30 years, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has played a critical role in the fight to protect our children,” said Sen. Hatch. “Over those years, NCMEC has kept pace with evolving threats ranging from online enticement of children to child pornography and sex tourism.

“I am proud to support this legislation to modernize NCMEC’s authorities and ensure that the organization has the resources it needs to continue this important work,” Sen. Hatch said.

The NCMEC, a private nonprofit created in 1984, is designated by Congress as the national clearinghouse to address issues related to missing and exploited children. The center serves victims, families, private industry, law enforcement, and the general public, according to an Aug. 17 letter to lawmakers supporting S. 3354 from John Clark, president and chief executive of the NCMEC.

“The Missing Children’s Assistance Act was last reauthorized by Congress in 2013 and, without prompt passage of this legislation, the activities authorized by the Act will expire on September 30, 2018,” Clark wrote.

Sen. Grassley plans to help S. 3354 quickly become law. “Every instance of a missing child is a tragedy, and we cannot let up on our fight against child abduction and exploitation,” he said. “This is an important bill to support and modernize that work.”

Sen. Feinstein, the lead Democratic original cosponsor of S. 3354, is on the same page. “This bill will improve the group’s efforts and deserves to be passed as soon as possible,” she said.

Sen. Portman noted that the NCMEC “is on the front lines protecting the most vulnerable children in our country,” and he supports S. 3354 to continue the center’s national hotline and other “important work.”

Among several provisions, S. 3354 would update existing terms to reflect the latest research and trends, according to a summary provided by Sen. Portman’s office. The measure also would extend NCMEC funds for an additional five years at the current level of $40 million, which also would support other organizations working to prevent offenses committed against vulnerable children.

Additionally, S. 3354 would continue federal support of state and local efforts to recover missing and exploited children, including those who have been kidnapped or suffer child pornography crimes, according to the summary.

S. 3354 has been referred to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration.