When Republicans took control of the House of Representatives this year, one of their goals was to cut federal spending across the board.
At the Justice Department, their main public target was the FBI, which Republicans have accused of conducting probes on a partisan basis, especially by targeting former President Trump.
Until recently, it was less clear how the GOP hoped to trim federal anticrime programs, which spend several billion dollars each year.
In a new report from the House Appropriations panel overseeing the DOJ budget, Republicans took aim at what they termed the Biden Justice Department's "social justice agenda," which they asserted is "undercutting the nation's police."
The GOP members said their proposed federal spending bill "eliminates, sharply reduces, or prohibits funding for dozens of the Department of Justice’s progressive grant programs" which Republicans said DOJ "has been treating like blank checks"
Specific programs Republicans want to eliminate were identified as the National Center on Restorative Justice, Accelerating Justice System Reforms, Community-Based Approaches to Advancing Justice, and Alternatives to Youth Incarceration.
Some criticism of the Biden DOJ's anticrime efforts is not new. Even the Democrats who presided over the appropriations process during Biden's first term in office rejected some of the White House's expansive proposals to fund local anticrime projects.
Consider the Accelerating Justice System Reforms proposal.
The White House wants $300 million to “offer states, cities, tribes, and territories robust funding to advance strategies that will prevent violent crime and ease the burden on police officers so they do not have to respond to non-violent situations that may not merit police intervention, and in doing so deliver evidence-
based criminal justice reforms that advance racial equity.
"Examples of supported activities include drug court and diversion programs, co-responder or alternative responder programs, enhanced mental health and substance use disorder services, juvenile and youth-focused job opportunities and mentoring, environmental improvement and design strategies proven to reduce violent crime in high-risk neighborhoods, housing and other supportive services, and re-entry programs"
The Biden plan would make grants contingent on localities' repealing mandatory minimums for non-violent crimes and change other laws that contribute to increased incarceration rates without making our communities safer.”
Republicans say they want to support police but they are not likely to endorse any move to end mandatory minimum sentences.
Will the GOP's proposed cuts actually become law? It may not happen if Congress, to keep the government running, approves a "continuing resolution" that essentially maintains federal agency budgets but does not allow new programs to take effect. The outcome may be known by Thanksgiving
In a recent letter to top House appropriators, about 40 members led by Democrats said they "strongly urge the support and funding of initiatives aimed at preventing, investigating, and prosecuting violent crime, including hate crimes and other bias related crimes.
"Additionally, we urge you to continue supporting top level funding for programs that enable community organizations, state, local, and tribal governments, and law enforcement agencies to engage with each other and their communities and combat crime."
The letter did not specifically address the DOJ programs that Republican leaders want to cut.
The bottom line is that the Biden administration likely will be able to continue spending several billion dollars in the year ending next September on community antiviolence projects, but the total will not expand and could be trimmed if Republicans end up enacting a law that would cut federal spending across the board by 1% or some similarly small figure.