In his first appearance on Capitol Hill as U.S. Attorney General, Merrick Garland asked lawmakers on Tuesday for a $85 million spending boost to investigate and prosecute domestic terrorism.
Garland spoke before a House appropriations panel on the Justice Department’s financial requirements as part of President Joe Biden’s request for fiscal year 2022.
Garland stated that the department’s budget provides a $45 million boost for the FBI to finance domestic terrorist cases, as well as a $40 million increase for U.S. attorneys to tackle increasing caseloads.
Garland said at his Senate confirmation hearing earlier this year that one of his top priorities would be to investigate the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol attack. In one of the biggest Justice Department probes in decades, federal attorneys are investigating more than 400 lawsuits against rioters loyal to former President Donald Trump.
The department budget also calls for a $304 million boost in funding for services that promote community-oriented policing and counter racial inequities.
“Promoting public trust between communities and law enforcement is essential to making both communities and policing safer,” Garland told the panel.
Garland has already rescinded a Trump-era directive that restricted the department’s use of court-enforced consent decrees to implement changes at local law enforcement agencies. He opened inquiries into police departments in Minneapolis and Louisville last month.
The Minneapolis probe was revealed just one day after a jury found retired cop Derek Chauvin guilty of George Floyd’s murder last year. In Louisville, the police department is being investigated into the shooting death of Breonna Taylor.
In addition, the administration is seeking a raise of $232 million to combat gun abuse, including grant money for gang violence prevention efforts, expanded background checks, and more stringent “red flag” rules.
“Gun deaths continue to occur at a staggering rate in our country,” Garland said Tuesday. “There is more we can do to make our communities safer. This is both a law enforcement issue and a public health issue.”
He added that the department wants an extra $33 million for the Civil Rights Division, Community Relations Service and other related civil rights work.
“From protecting voting rights to prosecuting hate crimes like those experienced by our Asian American and Pacific Islander communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, [the Justice Department’s] civil rights work is critical to protecting the American dream.”
Garland also mentioned President Biden’s proposal for $1 billion to fund the efforts of the Justice Department’s Office of Violence Against Women. He said that the office’s grant programmes would “assist our state, local, territorial and tribal partners in addressing gender-based violence.”
He has stated that a $120 million request would be expanded to resolve a backlog of unprocessed rape kits and to prepare law enforcement agents and lawyers to prosecute gender-based abuse.