Nearly all civil cases before the Justice Department would have to be put on hold if Congress cannot agree on a budget, said Attorney General Eric Holder at a forum in Boston on Tuesday night.
If the country goes over the “fiscal cliff” that lawmakers designed last year as a tactic to pressure themselves into reaching a budget agreement, federal entities and programs will be forced to deal with deep cuts to their budgets while Congress sorts through its spending plan. Congress agreed to the fiscal cliff last year as Democrats sought Republican agreement to raise the country’s debt limit. The fiscal cliff is a tactic lawmakers designed to pressure themselves into reaching a budget agreement, with its deep threats of economy-disrupting federal spending cuts and tax increases.
For the Justice Department, Holder said he believes his lawyers could still maintain public safety by moving resources around. In addition, he said the Bureau of Prisons, which operates the federal prison system and is a subset of the department, could still operate for months under sequestration.
“I have the flexibility to move funds within the Department,” Holder said, according to a CNN report.
But cases that don’t bear on public safety would be put on the back burner, Holder said. He indicated that almost all civil cases would have to be suspended until funds were restored. Holder spoke Tuesday night at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library as part of a forum on civil rights.