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Biden Seeks More Anticrime Spending; Will Congress Listen?

The Biden administration this week unveiled its anticrime spending plan for the year starting in October, which includes ambitious multi-billion-dollar justice system reform and community antiviolence projects.

The reality is that a divided Congress, which just last week approved a Justice Department budget for the current fiscal year, likely will not act on the White House proposals during a presidential election year.

In any case, the proposed budget makes a political statement about what President Biden would like to see in terms of DOJ spending on anticrime programs.

Last week, a compromise approved by Congress cut the DOJ budget by more than $1 billion, including reductions in grant money to states and localities. The new Biden budget seeks to reverse these cuts, restoring spending levels to those of recent years.

Whether any of this will happen depends on which major political party ends up controlling the White House and Congress in the November elections. Still, even the Democrats who held the majority in the House during Biden's first two years in office rejected the huge proposed 10-year "mandatory" spending ideas that the Biden administration again proposed this week.

One area of potential reform is the federal Crime Victims Fund, which provides money for organizations across the U.S. that help victims. The fund gets its money from judgments and settlements in federal court cases, which can vary greatly from year to year.

The law just approved in Congress puts a cap on spending over the year at $1.195 billion, a big cut from the previous year's $1.795 billion.

The new budget calls for a $7.3 billion appropriation for the fund over five years to ensure that the fund has a stable balance at all times.

Here are a few summaries showing how major anticrime spending  categories stand now and how the Biden DOJ might change them:

-- "Formula" grants to states and localities got $412 million last year, are getting $345 million now. Biden would raise the total to $419 million.

-- An opioid, stimulant and substance abuse program would stay steady at about $190 million.

-- A "second chance" program for former prisoners was cut this year from $95 million to $82 million. Biden would raise it to $90 million.

-- A "community violence intervention" program gets $50 million this year and another $50 million from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act already passed by Congress.

-- Programs to deal with violence against women would remain steady at about $255 million.

-- Aid to help local police departments hire officers suffered a big cut in Congress last week, from $224 million to $157 million. Biden would increase the total to $270 million.

The huge spending proposals that the White House made again this year include $15 billion over 10 years for an "Accelerating Justice System Reform" program for state and local governments, $1.5 billion over 10 years for community violence intervention and $10.9 billion over five years to support the police program, which dates back to the big 1994 federal anticrime law.

One proposal would spend more than $5 billion to combat violent crime and reduce gun violence through a new Violent Crime Reduction and Prevention Fund (VCRPF) and police hiring.

DOJ says the fund would "hire new federal law enforcement agents, prosecutors, and forensic specialists to combat fentanyl, as well as apprehend dangerous fugitives and ... drive down the high rate of unsolved violent crimes and the lengthy delays that undermine public trust and public safety."

It is not clear whether Congress will seriously consider any of these proposals this year before adjourning for the election campaigns.

More likely is that President Biden will tout the proposals in his campaign to counter Republican claims that his administration is not doing enough to deal with high crime rates across the nation.


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