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GOP divided over Justice Department funding amid Trump indictment.

Another Fight Brewing Over Funding the Department of Justice

As the appropriations process looks even more difficult this year amid a fight on whether or not to write spending bills below the caps set in the debt ceiling bill, another fight is brewing over funding the Department of Justice.

Amid an outcry from more conservative members of the Republican conference to cut funding to the DOJ, others, even some hard-line conservatives, said they won’t support such a massive funding cut.

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The call to slash funding to the DOJ by Republicans has increased since the investigations into and now the indictment of former President Donald Trump. Some members believe the department has become an arm of the Democrats to target political opponents and, more specifically, Republicans.

Trump pleaded not guilty to 37 felony counts related to accusations he violated the Espionage Act and took classified documents after he left office and obstructed investigators trying to retrieve them. The investigation was led by special counsel Jack Smith, who was appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland to look into Trump taking classified documents from his time in office.

“The conference as a whole is not going to reward the Department of Justice for targeting conservatives all over America,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) told reporters.

Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) said he believes every agency needs to have its funding cut. But more specifically, if an agency such as the Department of Justice is going to be “making political decisions as opposed to following the law,” the agency should not be funded at the levels everybody expects.

“There’s some places we should apply the Holman rule and reorganize, and there’s other places we should probably just defund,” Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) said about DOJ funding. “I’m suggesting reorganization, defunding in some places. Those need to happen, and some of us are looking at that.”

The Holman rule is a House rule that allows members to file amendments to appropriations bills to reduce the salary of or fire specific federal employees or cut certain federal programs. Members of the House Freedom Caucus have been citing this rule as a way to cut the salary of certain officials or cut programs within the DOJ.

But the Republican conference and even the Freedom Caucus are not unanimous when it comes to DOJ funding.

Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO), a member of the Freedom Caucus and someone who served in the DOJ for 15 years, said he conveyed to his colleagues in a closed-door meeting about appropriations that he is against slashing funding to the department because underneath that umbrella is the Bureau of Prisons, Drug Enforcement Administration, and other important services.

“I’m not in favor of cutting DOJ,” Buck said.

While cutting funding to the DOJ is unlikely, a more likely scenario is the House blocking funding for the FBI’s new headquarters. Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has strayed from expressing support for slashing the DOJ’s funding, but he, along with several of his allies, has expressed support for not funding the new headquarters.

“I don’t think the FBI deserves a building the size of the Pentagon and some Taj Mahal to spend almost a billion dollars in. I think there’s a better way to spend that money,” McCarthy said on May 31.

Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR), a House Appropriations subcommittee chairman, said, “There’s a lot of discussion” and “a lot of chatter” about rescinding the funding for the FBI’s new headquarters.

But House Republicans must be careful that they don’t let their anger toward the current administration affect the rank-and-file members of the Republican Conference whose district likes the FBI agents in their community, Womack said.

Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD), who is co-chairman of the centrist Main Street Caucus, called for investment into local field offices and DOJ officials who keep communities safe rather than “continue to grow the central bureaucracy of the FBI.”

“I certainly don’t understand why we need a $4 billion new FBI headquarters,” he said. “That being said, we got a lot of Indian country in South Dakota, and I certainly see that the rank-and-file FBI agents on the ground are trying to do right, keep their community safe. We could certainly use a couple more hardworking FBI agents’ boots on the ground in South Dakota.”

This sentiment is shared by Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-ND), who said while some members of the conference are going to want to cut a lot from the department, others won’t want to be accused of “defunding the police.” So, he believes House Republicans should use the appropriations process to “direct the funding where it’s needed and decentralize the DOJ.”

Womack acknowledged that anything the House does in terms of cutting funding for the DOJ, the Senate likely won’t accept.

The two chambers are already on a collision course on appropriations bills, with the House marking up its appropriations bills at fiscal 2022 levels, which is under the spending caps set in the debt ceiling bill. This has angered Senate appropriators who have no plan to mark up their appropriations bills under the caps already set in the debt ceiling bill.

When it comes to crafting appropriations bills, Womack said he doesn’t look at it through the lens of “what’s the first vote I’m going to take” but rather he looks at it through the lens of “what’s the last vote I’m going to be asked to take.” Because the bills are going to get over in the Senate, they’re going to get changed and look completely different.

“This is where we get in trouble as a conference,” Womack said. “We look at things based on the initial vote before anything else goes to the Senate. I don’t know if our knee-jerk reaction is just to act like we’re a unibody and we can do it all on our own or whether or not we truly believe that there is another side of this discussion. And we’re going to have to make those two work together.”


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