A federal program that helps law enforcement agencies buy bulletproof vests is stuck in an ideological battle over the government’s responsibility to state and local police departments, reports USA Today. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), asked colleagues this week to consider long-delayed legislation to reauthorize the Bulletproof Vest Grant Partnership Program. Longtime opponent Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) objected, blocking action, as he did in 2012.
Coburn said the Constitution gives the federal government no role in funding local police departments. “It’s a nice thing to do if we were in surplus,” he said. “We’re not in surplus.” Leahy wanted the Senate to take up the legislation ahead of National Police Week next week. After Coburn objected, Leahy set a hearing next Wednesday on the program’s positive impact. Leahy said the bulletproof vest program hasn’t been a partisan issue until now. The program got $22.5 million in the current appropriations bill, but Leahy has been unable to get it reauthorized for long-term funding. Said Coburn: “The reason this country is in trouble is we continue to practice outside the parameters of a limited government and take away the responsibility and obligations of state and local communities.”