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Congress needs to increase the Justice Department’s budget by a huge 11% next year so the feds can better address domestic terrorism, gun violence, voter discrimination and other Biden administration priorities, Attorney General Merrick Garland said Tuesday.
Marking his first congressional testimony since his confirmation, Garland told lawmakers that he’s seeking the budget bump out of his commitment to “enforcing our country’s laws and to ensuring the civil rights and the civil liberties of our people.”
“I ask for your support for our budget as the entire department works to ensure adherence to the rule of law, protection of public safety and equal justice for all Americans,” Garland testified before the House Appropriations Committee’s sub-panel on Commerce, Justice and Science.
Garland’s 2022 fiscal year blueprint, which in total comes out to $35.2 billion, includes a $45 million boost in funding for the FBI to combat domestic terrorism and $40 million more for U.S. attorney offices to manage an expected uptick in relevant caseloads.
Federal law enforcement agencies have warned about an increase in domestic extremism, especially among those espousing far-right views, since a mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in a deadly attempt to overturn the 2020 election.
Garland’s request for more resources to combat extremism corresponds with his vow during his Senate confirmation hearing to make the sprawling investigation into the Jan. 6 attack a key priority as AG.
The Justice Department also needs an additional $33 million to help advance civil rights and $232 million to crack down on gun violence, with recent mass shootings leaving a “staggering” death toll, Garland said.
“There is more that we can do to make our communities safer,” the attorney general said. “This is both a law enforcement and a public health issue.”
Alabama Rep. Lee Aderholt, the subcommittee’s top Republican, blasted Garland’s proposed surge in funding for gun violence prevention, claiming it is part of President Biden’s attempt to “infringe on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.”
Other requests in Garland’s budget blueprint that are likely to rub Republicans the wrong way include provisions for “protecting voting rights.”
Republican state legislators, inspired by former President Donald Trump’s false claim that the 2020 election was rigged, have enacted voting regulations across the country that critics say are aimed at driving down turnout among predominantly Democratic voters, including African-Americans.
Garland has suggested the Justice Department’s civil rights division may get involved in contesting such regulations, drawing intense ire from the GOP.
Another item in Garland’s budget proposal that climate change-skeptical Republicans are unlikely to back is a push for “stepping up our work on environmental justice.”
“Communities of color, low-income communities, and tribal communities often suffer the most harm from environmental crimes and pollution,” Garland testified.