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House Amendment to Keep Four DOJ Antitrust Field Offices Open Fails
Posted By Aaron Koepper On May 11, 2012 @ 2:40 pm In News | Comments Disabled
Lawmakers whose amendment to keep four Justice Department Antitrust Division field offices open failed in the House Wednesday are hoping to do better at an upcoming meeting with department officials.
The amendment to the 2013 appropriations bill, which would have prohibited the department from using funds to close the branches in Atlanta, Cleveland, Dallas and Philadelphia, failed 189-235 in a recorded vote. It was sponsored by Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and co-sponsored by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.).
Lewis argued on the floor that the closures will not save the $8 million the department has projected it will and would deplete the department of the resources needed to carry out antitrust investigations in those regions. Under pressure to reduce spending with a strained budget, the department announced  it would consolidate the offices in 2011 and that the 94 positions in those offices would be reassigned to the remaining offices. A department spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment on Friday, but officials have said previously that the closures will not affect enforcement.
“Over the past 11 years, the Atlanta field office alone brought in over $265 million in fines and restitution,” Lewis said on the House floor Wednesday night. “Let me be clear that is a 600 percent rate of return on this investment. What better proof do you need?”
The amendment was also supported by Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.).
“I’m deeply concerned that this action will seriously undermine the division’s ability to enforce antitrust laws by limiting the boots on the ground,” Bishop said on the floor.
After the original failed voice vote, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), Chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and science, said he would arrange a meeting between the individuals who spoke for the amendment and the department.
Wolf spokesman Dan Scandling confirmed Wolf’s office was in the process of setting up the meeting. Scandling declined to comment on what outcome Wolf was hoping to see from the meetings. Wolf opposed the amendment on the House floor.
“This was not done by our committee,” Wolf said Wednesday night. “This was done by the Justice Department, by the administration.”
The amendment vote came a few weeks after Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) sent a letter  to the DOJ urging the leadership to keep the offices open, citing that $6 million of the $8 million expected to be saved would be from personnel leaving the department, as well as the millions to be paid to the Treasury Department as the result of criminal fines.
Antitrust Division leaders from all but one field office wrote a letter to former Assistant Attorney General Sharis Pozen in Feburary, asking the department to keep the offices open.
Correction May 14, 2012: This article initially misidentified Sen. Herb Kohl. Main Justice regrets the error.
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