Live updates: Merrick Garland’s Senate hearing

Sen. Jerry Moran Senate TV

While the proposed $35.3 billion budget for the Justice Department is a 7% increase from the previous fiscal year, members of a Senate subcommittee are concerned that other areas may get neglected.

Chair Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat from New Hampshire, and Ranking Member Jerry Moran, a Republican from Kansas, of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies expressed in their opening remarks that they are concerned about the proposed incremental budget for staffing in the Bureau of Prisons, the FBI, DEA, ATF, US Marshals and funds for the crime victims funding.

Garland’s budget does mention an increase of staff within the Justice Department like in the Civil Rights Division, Community Relations Services and the US Marshal Services.

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Moran pointed out that the “overwhelming bulk” of the Justice Department’s request is dedicated to grant programs but the 2% increase to the law enforcement agencies is “barely enough to cover inflation” and may not “reverse the 13% decline in the number of special agents since 2010.” 

“The DEA is on the frontlines against sophisticated ruthless drug traffickers and cartels and the methamphetamine and opioid crisis continues to wreak havoc and terrible damage on communities in Kansas and across the country. I’m troubled by the lack of attention given the DEA in this budget request,” Moran said during his opening remarks.

Shaheen says she is concerned about staffing in federal prisons and the budget for the Crime Victims’ Fund. 

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Garland assured Shaheen that the Crime Victims’ Fund is not expected to run out.

“I have been given to understand that, given the receipts, we expect to bring in this year and through FY 22. At the end of 2022, we should have about a $400 million balance, that is we do not expect the fund to run out and we expect to have a balance now I also agree with you, we want to build up that fund further,” Garland said.

Regarding staffing in the Bureau of Prisons, Garland says that there has been a “dramatic increase in the number of hires.”

“I am of course concerned about this, its protection of both the staff and the inmates require that we have the right number of staff in the Bureau of Prisons so what I understand is that we are currently at 95% of authorized positions filled. So there will always be a percentage, because of attrition, etc. But they have made dramatic increases in the number of hires to the, to the point that BLP hired 900 net new staff,” Garland said.

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