A key U.S. senator says she is “strongly and enthusiastically” backing a restoration of federal aid to state and local criminal justice programs. The endorsement was issued by Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who heads the committee recommending appropriations for the Justice Deparrtment. Mikulski, whose panel is hearing today from Attorney General Michael Mukasey, noted that the $660 million voted last year by the Senate for the so-called Byrne grant gram was reduced to $170 million in the final 2008 omnibus spending bill in the face of a presidential veto threat.
Mikulski said the “consequences of these funding cuts will be fewer cops on our streets fighting gangs, drugs, and child predators and fewer prosecutions of criminals. We have an obligation to keep our communities safe from violent crime. If we can provide resources to the police in Iraq, we should support our cops here at home.” President Bush’s budget proposal for 2009 would eliminate Byrne grants and other programs, including the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Law Enforcement Technology Grants, Juvenile Accountability Block Grants, and the Secure Our Schools program, Mikulski said.