House Republican legislators warned today of further possible cuts to the U.S. Justice Department division that's responsible for grants, training and other aid to states and localities.
The Office of Justice Programs was already facing a likely reduction in its $3.6 billion budget. Last month, in the face of pressure to reduce the overall federal budget deficit, the Obama administration proposed a cut of $588 million, or 16.6%, to take effect in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.
But Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), the chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee that oversees DOJ funding, said that might not be enough. “The fiscal crisis facing the country is real, and it requires a level of fiscal austerity that goes beyond the president’s request,” Wolf said during a budget hearing today.
Wolf and Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) had praise for the work that the Office of Justice Programs does, including sending money to their home states. Nevertheless, Bonner said, “We’re looking at a deep, deep hole to dig out of.”
The Office of Justice Programs represents a significant part of DOJ’s funding, at about 12.9% of last year’s budget. As The National Law Journal reported last month, the Obama administration has proposed increasing other parts of the department’s budget.
Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson told the appropriations subcommittee that the department understands the need for austerity, and Democratic legislators sounded the same note. “We’re all at the point where we agree on the need for cuts, and the question is how to apply those cuts,” said Rep. José Serrano (D-N.Y.).
Wolf pushed the office to concentrate more of its resources on fighting the abuse of prescription drugs, especially oxycodone, and on reducing instances of prison rape. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) said he hopes to block the administration’s proposed cut of $11 million from programs for missing or exploited children.