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Will Debt Ceiling Law Force Cuts In Federal Anticrime Spending?

How will the new deal suspending the U.S. debt ceiling affect federal spending on anticrime and other criminal justice programs?

The details are not yet clear, as Congress delayed its process of setting federal appropriations for the year starting October 1 until the debt ceiling issue was resolved, which happened last week.

Many House Republicans have demanded major cuts in federal spending, but decisions are yet to be made on how those might affect specific federal agencies.

The House subcommittee that oversees Justice Department spending now is headed by veteran Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY). The top Democrat is Rep. Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania, who led the panel in the last Congress.

The new law caps the rate of growth in non-defense discretionary spending at current levels for next year and at 1 percent the following year. For most agencies, this would suggest level funding overall.

A 2011 federal Budget Control Act set caps on discretionary spending over a decade.

A major federal anticrime grant program known as Byrne JAG was cut by 40 percent and has yet to fully recover, says the National Criminal Justice Association, which represents state agencies. Any cuts made this year are likely to be far lower.

The new law rescinds unobligated funds appropriated in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will not eliminate state and local block grant funds provided by the 2020 CARES Act or the 2021 American Rescue Plan.

One set of Justice Department expenditures that could be in some jeopardy are "community violence intervention" programs in states and localities.

In a preliminary hearing before Rogers' subcommittee in April, Rachel Johnson of the DOJ Office of Justice Programs said the Biden administration's budget request "includes $200 million for Community Violence Intervention and Prevention efforts to supplement funding from the landmark Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and provide a total of $250 million for this critical program in FY 2024."

Johnson said the Biden budget includes his plan to provide $5 billion over 10 years for Community Violence Interventions

She said the budget would "enable us to continue scaling investments, and focus on street outreach programs, hospital-based violence intervention programs, and other local efforts designed to support community-driven approaches to prevent gun violence as a complement to law enforcement."

However, Congress even under Democratic control of the House did not endorse this major spending request, and it is even less likely to be backed by Republicans.

Of course, any budget proposal by the House must win agreement in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Decisions on anticrime spending must be made in the context of the entire Justice Department budget. Its biggest component is the troubled federal prison system, where Congress will be pressured to increase spending.

Another major DOJ spending account is the FBI, which has been a target of Republican criticism and could suffer spending cuts.


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