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Senate panel supports DOJ budget request

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Senate appropriators supported President Obama's Justice Department topline budget request for next fiscal year, saying efforts to reduce the federal prison population and crack down on drug trade must continue with the appropriate funding.

Under the request, the DOJ would be budgeted $27.4 billion, about $122 million above the 2014 level.

"I want to make sure DOJ has what it needs to uphold the rule of law and protect civil liberties," Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said at the April 3 Senate Appropriations commerce, justice, science and related agencies subcommittee hearing. Mikulski is chairwoman of the subcommittee and the full committee.

The request would set funding for the FBI at $8.3 billion, nearly the same as the fiscal 2014 enacted level.

That money would include funding of $15 million for the new Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center as well as $13 million to keep up the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

About $2 billion would go to fund the Drug Enforcement Administration, which is about $10 million less than the fiscal 2014 enacted level.

For the Bureau of Prisons, the White House requested $6.9 billion – a $100 million increase over the fiscal 2014 enacted level. That money covers food, healthcare and utilities for inmates, among other things. It will also prioritize hiring staff to fill vacant positions for prison guards, Attorney General Eric Holder said at the hearing.

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) didn't take umbrage with the overall request, but said funding at the program level wasn't prioritized properly.

"Law enforcement and national security programs take a backseat," Shelby said.

Instead, Shelby said, 12 new grant programs as well as programs aimed at prioritizing prosecutions take center stage.

Shelby also complained that the Obama request called for $500 million in miscellaneous program and administrative reduction that will be identified once funds are appropriated, likening the cuts to an arbitrary sequester.

For more:
- go to the hearing page (webcast and prepared testimony available)

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