Attorney General Merrick Garland pressed Congress on Tuesday for more funding for a variety of Justice Department priorities, including combating domestic terrorism, protecting civil rights, prosecuting hate crimes and battling the opioid epidemic.
Testifying to Congress for the first time as attorney general before a House Appropriations subcommittee, Garland also spoke about policing reforms, including a budget request to enhance community-oriented policing.
“Promoting public trust between communities and law enforcement is essential to making both communities and policing safe. Our budget proposes increased investment in programs supporting community-oriented policing and addressing systemic inequities,” Garland said.
Asked what dangers trouble him the most, Garland said foreign and domestic terrorism are “an emerging and accelerating threat.”
“Both forms of terrorism are of extraordinary concern to me. We never want to take our eyes off of what happened on 9/11 and the risks that our country continues to face from foreign-origin attacks on the homeland,” he said. “Likewise, we have a growing fear of domestic violent extremism and domestic terrorism. Both of those keep me up at night.”
The dangers have only increased in recent years, he said. “The lethality of weapons available to these kinds of terrorists, both foreign and domestic, has increased. The consequence of the internet and encryption means that they can send information and make plans much more swiftly and in greater secrecy than could have been done before,” Garland said.
He said President Joe Biden’s budget request for the Justice Department is designed to address “both international and domestic terrorism while respecting civil liberties.”
“It includes increases of $45 million for FBI domestic terrorism investigation and $40 million to U.S. attorneys to manage increasing domestic terrorism caseloads,” he said.
Garland said the $35 billion budget calls for an increase in funding for the Civil Rights Division to fight discrimination, protect voting rights and prosecute hate crimes, and he pushed requests to increase funding for the Office on Violence Against Women, including $120 million to tackle a backlog in processing rape kits.
The budget also calls for more funding to hire judges to combat a massive backlog of cases in immigration courts, as well as money for programs to battle gun violence and the opioid crisis.
The subcommittee’s ranking member, Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., said he and his colleagues had seen only a budget summary, not the budget itself. He expressed skepticism about some of the requests, referring to some of the proposed gun violence measures as “liberal feel-good programs.”
Aderholt said he was concerned that the proposal didn’t focus enough on foreign terrorist threats or prosecuting human trafficking, but he said, “I do believe that there will be opportunity to find some agreement on measures to reduce violent crime, fight the scourge of addiction and protect the vulnerable and those who seek to abuse them.”
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