Elizabeth's Father Blasts Congress

Early Show Co-Anchor Harry Smith holds Ed Smart hand
CBS/The Early Show
Reunited with her family Wednesday night, Elizabeth Smart played the harp (she's a little rusty) and watched "The Trouble With Angels," one of her favorite movies.

That's the word from her father, Ed Smart, dubbed "the happiest man in America" by The Early Show co-Anchor Harry Smith, who had an exclusive interview with him Thursday morning.

But the elated father also took the opportunity to unleash an impassioned plea to Congress to pass the Amber Alert into national law.

More important than his own family's celebration, said Smart, "are all of those other children that are out there, that are missing. And I would like to call upon Congress today, the House of Representatives, to stand up and be counted."

In particular, Smart took aim at Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) for refusing to break the proposal out of a larger piece of legislation and let it slide through the House alone, as it has in the Senate.

"His unwillingness to let the Amber Alert pass on its own is hurting children. He is hurting children," Smart told Smith on The Early Show. "I am calling on House leadership to, this day, bring the Amber bill to the floor and pass it. Show us that there is some House leadership."

For his part, Sensenbrenner, said the proposal is better off as part of a broader piece of legislation which would raise penalties for certain crimes against children and boost funding for child abuse and abduction prevention.

Thirty-eight states have passed Amber Alert laws, he noted, and the Bush administration already has directed $10 million to hire a national Amber network coordinator, train workers and upgrade equipment.

He asked the Smart family to be patient.

"There is more to this issue than the Amber Alert,'' Sensenbrenner said on NBC's "Today" show. "Work with us rather than attack us, and we'll get that ball across the goal line very soon."

Amber Alerts are named after Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old girl abducted in Arlington, Texas, and later found murdered. They are bulletins distributed quickly through radio and television broadcasts and electronic highway signs about kidnapped children and their abductors. They are credited with the rescues of at least 34 children since 1996, the Justice Department has reported.

The Senate in January unanimously passed legislation to spend $25 million on a national Amber network and provide matching grants to states and communities for equipment and training.

The House and the Senate passed versions of the bill last year, as well, but were unable to agree on the specifics before recessing. House members tacked several more controversial measures onto the Amber Alert last year.

During his interview on The Early Show, Smart described the family's reunion as "beyond my wildest hopes."

Physically, Elizabeth appears to be fine. But Smart added, "I know that she's been through brainwashing, and for her to have gone through this past nine months, it's just been horrible. Absolutely horrible. And just so grateful to those people that have helped and prayed, and have been there with us."

Did she talk at all about the last nine months?

Said her father, "I did not have the heart to try and have her recall what she's been through. And I know that - that things will come out as time comes, and I'll hear the whole story. But the thing that I can say is that he did go through that back window. He did go out that back door. And he had been watching her."

Finally, Smith asked Smart what is was like to be able to hold the hand of his daughter once again.

Replied Smart, "Elizabeth has always had a very tight grip. I mean, when you're holding her hand, it is tight. And I held that hand for a long time. We sat down and watched one of her favorite videos, 'The Trouble With Angels.' And it was just absolutely, it was heaven to have her home. It was heaven."