Victims' Rights Caucus

Speeches

VICTIMS OF CRIME ACT

Feb 26 2008

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Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about one of the novel concepts that Congress has come up with over the years. It goes back to the Reagan administration and a bipartisan bill signed by President Reagan, the VOCA Act was established. It is called the Victims of Crime Act. It's a novel idea in that convicted felons in Federal court who are assessed fees and fines must pay those fees and fines into a fund. That fund then is saved and reserved for victims of crime for restitution. It also establishes and takes care of domestic violence shelters where spouses can hide away from those abusers. It establishes rape crisis coalition centers. It promotes and sends money to the victim advocates throughout the United States who go to court with victims of crime, especially in violent crime. It does many good things. And over the years, because our Federal judges have continued to fine and assess greater penalties to criminals, that VOCA fund, as of today, is $1.7 billion, money contributed by criminals that goes to crime victims. What a wonderful idea. And let me make it clear, this is not taxpayer money. Taxpayers didn't fund this. Criminals did. Criminals paying the rent on the courthouse, paying for the system that they have created.

So what is the problem? The problem is, Mr. Sp eaker, that that fund, every year, that's administered by the Federal Government continues to be robbed by other bureaucrats and continues to be less money that's available for crime victims. This year we have $1.7 billion in the fund. Last year $635 million of that was used for crime victims, but this year the fund is being cut by the bureaucrats to $590 million. That's not a lot of money, but it means that victims shelters throughout the country will be closed, that these rape crisis coalition centers wil l be closed because they're barely keeping the lights on.

So why is that happening, Mr. Speaker? I do not know.

I do know that the Justice Department now is going to charge a surcharge on the victims fund of 5.5 percent to administer the fund. They are doing so without the approval of Congress. They have no right to take $30 million to pay for their own bureaucracy. That's not authorized by Congress.

We also know that the administration wants to take part of that money and apply it to other prog rams out there.

Once again, this is not taxpayer money. It's money that belongs to victims. And the Federal Government and, specifically, the Justice Department and the Federal bureaucrats need to keep their hands off that money, because it's not their money. It belongs to victims of crime.

Mr. Speaker, victims of crime do not have a lobbyist up here in Washington, DC, a high-dollar lobbyist advocating on their behalf. They expect us, Members of Congress, to be their lobbyist, and it's important tha t we do not let the bureaucrats, the robber barons take money out of that VOCA fund and apply it to other programs.

Find that money somewhere else. This money belongs to crime victims. It should not be robbed by the bureaucrats. It should be left alone. And, if anything, we ought to raise how much money we take out of that fund for victims of crime.

It's $1.7 billion this year. Next year it's going to be $1.9 billion criminals contribute to that fund. And yet our government continues to let less and less money be applied to victims. We have more crime victims in this country than we did last year, and we need victims assistance.