Nearly half of the U.S. Senate is trying to save a politically popular law-enforcement program from deep Bush administration cuts. At issue are so-called Byrne grants, a $500 million annual program named for a slain New York City policeman. The Sacramento Bee reports that 48 senators from both parties support a continued high level of funding for Byrne. The Justice Department says it is not trying to kill Byrne but make it better by consolidating several grant programs into one.
Congress authorized Byrne in 1988 anti-drug legislation. In 1996, as part of another election-year anti-crime bill, Congress set up a separate Local Law Enforcement Block Grant Program. It received $222 million this year. Together, the two are funded at a total of $716 million this year. The administration proposes consolidating them at $528 million for next year.
The Community Oriented Policing Services program (COPS), which has similarly attracted a big political constituency, would be reduced and folded into the overall grant system. All told, said aides to California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the consolidation plan would cut funding for the three programs by about 60 percent.