Even as Congress is considering large funding cuts for federal departments and agencies, the bipartisan leadership of the House Judiciary Committee is warning members not to slash spending for law enforcement programs.
“The committee recognizes that the federal government currently faces significant budgetary constraints that will require federal departments and agencies to meet their respective missions and perform their functions while receiving fewer resources,” House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and the panel’s ranking Democrat John Conyers (D-Mich.), wrote in their annual “views and estimates” letter to the House Budget Committee. “The departments and agencies that fall within the committee’s jurisdiction serve a unique function in that they are among the few departments and agencies that perform functions specifically called for in the U.S. Constitution.”
Congressional committees that authorize programs are required to send “views and estimates” letters to the budget committees each year. The letters discuss the committee’s priorities and and reaction to the administration’s budget request. Federal departments and agencies have been operating under a series of continuing resolutions since the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1. Congressional leaders and officials from the Barack Obama Administration have been negotiating over a final spending deal. Such a deal is likely to include cuts in federal programs, including law enforcement efforts. Then, Congress will tackle the fiscal 2012 budget and Republican leaders have promised additional cuts.
In testimony before a House Appropriations Committee subcommittee last month, Attorney General Eric Holder said the funding levels contain in the continuing resolutions have placed a particular strain on DOJ. “Without question, the Continuing Resolution has presented significant budget challenges for the Department – and resulted in financial restrictions, including a temporary hiring freeze and the curtailing of non-essential spending,” he said in his testimony. “I have had to make some tough choices.”
And FBI Director Robert Mueller recently said that spending cuts would undermine his agency’s law enforcement responsibilities.
Conyers and Smith, who often clash on issues, warned the Budget Committee to be careful of cuts. “The committee will not support reductions that would put national security or public safety at risk,” they wrote. The two members, however, do not discuss specific funding levels thay are suggesting. For most programs, the congressmen simply state that they support funding levels “”necessary to accomplish” their mission.