"You have to be outraged" Congressman says of Kilah's Act still - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

"You have to be outraged" Congressman says of Kilah's Act still stuck in US Senate

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

Child abuse legislation - named after North Carolina's Kilah Davenport, and crafted to make sure states across the country are taking child abuse seriously - is stuck in a committee in the United States Senate, and the Congressman who sponsored the measure said the hang up "appears to be very disappointing. Very partisan."

Congressman Robert Pittenger, of North Carolina's Ninth District, filed Kilah's Act last year. It would force the U-S Justice Department to review child abuse penalties across the country. 

Kilah's Act is in memory of Kilah Davenport, the little girl beaten so badly by her stepfather - her brain never fully recovered. Kilah died in March.

Her stepfather, Joshua Houser, was sentenced to 8-to-10 years in prison. He was convicted before Kilah's death.

Pittenger's legislation wouldn't stiffen penalties - just force the federal government to make sure states aren't taking child abuse lightly.

It passed the House of Representatives last year.

The bill has been in the hands of the Senate Judiciary Committee – headed by Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy - for about six months.

Thursday afternoon Congressman Pittenger released a statement accusing Senator Leahy of "blocking" a vote.

 "I'm very upset because we had a chance to do something significant to protect children" Congressman Pittenger told WBTV. "We'll get it done but there's no reason for this kind of delay."

A spokesperson for Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT, said Senator Leahy is not blocking the bill.

"I think that the Congressman is mistaken" the spokesperson told WBTV. "Senator Leahy is not holding up the legislation. He reviews all legislation that is referred to this committee and that is what is happening."

Cong. Pittenger said his office received a message from Senator Leahy's staff saying the Senator didn't want the Justice Department "to process out all the different varying requirements that the states have in terms of threshold for sentencing."

Cong. Pittenger said "you have to be outraged. This is something that has enormous bipartisan support, something that affects the lives of young children. Anyone should be outraged."

According to Pittenger, Leahy "didn't want the bureaucracy inside the Justice Department to have to go to all that work."

But Leahy's spokesperson said "Congressman Pittenger seems to describe Sen. Leahy's position on the legislation and to my knowledge he has not met with Senator Leahy to discuss Senator Leahy's position on the legislation."

There's no timeline for when a bill is heard by the committee.

"I would point out that the Senate and Senate Judiciary Committee has passed numerous pieces of legislation that have languished over in the House for a year or more. I'm not meaning to suggest that will be the case on this. But simply to say I can't say there's any sort of standard time. There's no expiration date that I'm aware of."

Cong. Pittenger said he intends to request a meeting with Sen. Leahy.

"We're going to mount as strong a campaign as we can - locally and nationally" Congressman Pittenger said.

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