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Attorney General Eric Holder Testifies Before theHouse Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies


Washington, DC
United States

Good afternoon, Chairman Wolf; Ranking Member Fattah; and distinguished members of the Subcommittee. I appreciate this opportunity to discuss the President’s Fiscal Year 2014 Budget for the Department of Justice – and to provide an overview of the Department’s recent achievements and our important ongoing work.

In the days ahead – as my Justice Department and FBI colleagues continue to work closely with our federal, state, and local partners to investigate the tragedy that took place in Boston on Monday – your continued support will be more critical than ever. I join every member of this Subcommittee in expressing my deepest sympathies to the victims of this cowardly terrorist act, and to those who lost friends and loved ones. I want to assure you, the citizens of Boston, and all Americans that we are working tirelessly to determine who is responsible for this incident. To this end, I have directed that the full resources of the Department be deployed to ensure that this matter is thoroughly investigated, to prevent any future attacks from occurring – and to make certain that the individual or group that carried out this heinous act is held accountable to the fullest extent of the law, and by any means available to us.

The Department also will continue to strengthen and refine our broader national security efforts – and to move aggressively in identifying, disrupting, and investigating plots by foreign terrorist organizations as well as homegrown extremists. Since 2009, we have established a strong record in this regard – bringing cases, and securing convictions, against numerous terrorists.

The President’s budget request includes $4 billion to maintain these national security efforts. But it also provides critical support for a range of public safety programs that impact our citizens’ daily lives – including $395 million to support the Administration’s common-sense recommendations for preventing and reducing gun violence.

Along with the comprehensive gun violence reduction plan that the President announced in January, this budget request will allow us to respond to events like the horrific mass shooting we witnessed last December – in Newtown, Connecticut – by making our communities and schools more secure.

Just days after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, I traveled to Connecticut, met with first responders and crime scene investigators, and walked the halls where those unspeakable events took place. When those brave men and women asked me – with tears in their eyes – to do everything in my power to keep such a thing from happening again, I told them I would not rest until we had secured the changes our citizens need.

Despite my disappointment – and, quite frankly, my frustration and anger – at the filibuster in the Senate yesterday that led to the failure to adopt some of those changes, despite the fact that a majority voted for them – I and my colleagues throughout the Administration remain committed to standing with the families of Newtown; with countless others who have lost their lives in senseless acts of gun violence across the country; and with all whose lives and futures are shattered by this violence every day in our cities’ streets.

On behalf of these victims, survivors, and their families, my colleagues and I will continue to fight for common-sense reforms to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of dangerous people – without infringing on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners across the country.

The President’s budget request, along with the Administration’s gun violence reduction proposals, will enable us to do just that. Beyond these efforts, this budget request will bolster existing programs for combating violence in all its forms; cracking down on child exploitation and sexual assault; and becoming both smarter and tougher on crime. It will invest $2.3 billion in innovative programs to ensure that law enforcement officers can do their jobs more safely, and effectively, than ever before. It will provide increases totaling $55 million to continue the fight against financial and mortgage fraud. And it will allocate more than $250 million to support the Civil Rights Division’s efforts to address bias, intimidation, and discrimination – from America’s housing and lending markets, to our schools, workplaces, border areas, and voting booths.

Unfortunately, our capacity to build upon this comprehensive work has been negatively impacted by sequestration – which recently cut over $1.6 billion from the Department’s budget. These cuts have a detrimental effect on our employees, on the administration of justice in communities nationwide, and on our support for allies across America’s law enforcement community.

Despite our best efforts to reduce expenses, I am concerned about the Department’s ability to keep the FBI, the ATF, the DEA, the U.S. Marshals Service, and other key staff on the job – both this year and next. Less than a month ago, using my limited authorities to transfer and allocate existing funds, I provided $150 million to the Bureau of Prisons to avoid furloughing more than 3,500 correctional staff – each day – from federal prisons around the country. This would have created serious life and safety threats for our staff, inmates, and the public. I thank Chairman Wolf, Ranking Member Fattah, and Members of the Subcommittee for their support of this action. But I must note that the solutions that we used to alleviate sequester cuts in FY 2013 will no longer be available to mitigate FY 2014 funding shortfalls due to sequestration.

Put simply, these shortfalls would jeopardize programs that affect the safety of Americans across the country. And they would undermine the remarkable work that the Justice Department’s nearly 116,000 dedicated employees – and particularly our hardworking career staff – carry out every day.

I look forward to working with this Subcommittee – and with the entire Congress – to ensure that these untenable cuts are not allowed to continue, and to secure the timely passage of the President’s budget request – which allocates a total of $27.6 billion for the Justice Department. This support will be essential in ensuring that the Department has the resources it needs to fulfill its critical mission.

I thank you, once again, for the opportunity to discuss these efforts with you today. And I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Updated August 18, 2015