If Congress continues to fund the Justice Department through short-term spending bills, the department may have to consider furloughing employees, Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday.
The DOJ has been operating under a $27.7 billion budget since December 2009. The Department requested $28.4 billion in its budget for fiscal 2011, which started on Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30. Congress has yet to pass legislation to provide funding for the remainder of the fiscal year and instead, has sent President Barack Obama several short-term spending bills. The most recent continuing resolution expires on March 18. Meanwhile, appropriators have begun to review Obama’s Fiscal 2012 budget request, which includes $28.2 billion for the DOJ.
“I have to say, if we continue with these two week cycles or three, four week cycles, we’re ultimately going to reach a position where we’re going to have to consider [furloughs],” Holder told members of the Senate Appropriations Commerce, Justice and science subcommittee. “That is not something that people at the Justice Department are going to want to hear. It is something that I’ll certainly like to avoid.” The Attorney General said the hiring freeze he put in place in January should keep furloughs off the table for now.
Holder said extra funds are especially needed for the Bureau of Prisons, which cares for 200,000 prisoners and is expected to take in an additional 11,000 this year. He said the DOJ could “potentially run out of money” this year for incarcerating prisoners.
Presidential appointees and federal employees involved with national security, law enforcement, criminal investigations, federal property protection, emergency operations and the care of prisoners are among the employees that government memorandums have said are excepted from furloughs if the government shuts down, according to a Congressional Research Service report.