A bipartisan group of senators yesterday vowed to try restoring $660 million in federal Byrne grants for local law enforcement. Congressional Quarterly reports that Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Christopher Bond (R-MO), senior members of the Appropriations Committee, will seek the funds in an emergency war spending bill for fiscal 2008 to be considered in the next few months. Sens. Joseph Biden (D-DE), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) also endorsed the proposal. Feinstein called the Byrne program “a pillar of law enforcement in California. It funds a broad range of law-enforcement programs, from drug and gang task forces, to programs that assist victims of crime, including children. I am committed to doing everything I can to ensure that this funding is restored.”
In his fiscal 2009 budget request, President Bush is expected to propose significant cuts to Byrne grants and other local law enforcement programs, including the Clinton-era Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS. Some conservatives have criticized COPS, saying it takes away federal dollars from homeland security operations. Lawmakers in both parties have routinely resisted Bush's attempts to slash funding for the politically popular programs.