Congress cuts Justice Department budget in retaliation for 'Fast and Furious'

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The House appropriations committee cut millions of dollars from the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) budget this week, a move which has some Democrats alleging that these cuts are in retaliation to the DOJ’s refusal to release documents in connection with the Fast and Furious gun “walking” scandal. Attorney General Eric Holder was called to Capitol Hill to submit his testimony on his knowledge of the Fast and Furious operation and to turn over internal documents to Congressional leaders, but the agency has continued to stall.

Fast and Furious was the gun walking operation that resulted in the death of border patrol agent Brian Terry, who was shot and killed by a firearm that ended up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels after the guns were allowed to “walk” and the weapons were not tracked. Only six of the 2,000 weapons used in the operations were tracked.

Republican members of Congress requested internal memos and documents related to the scandal and have been quite vocal about their frustrations that these documents have not been delivered to Congress. Chairman of the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) has outlined a case# for contempt over the issue.

The line item budget cuts the appropriations committee passed not only reduce funds from the DOJ’s budget but also prohibits the department from using funds allocated for active projects. Some of the restrictions prohibit the use of funds to be used by the Attorney General to originate or join in any lawsuit that seeks to overturn, enjoin, or invalidate immigration laws in Oklahoma, Missouri, Arizona, Utah, Indiana, Alabama, South Carolina and Georgia. These new cuts also prohibit the use of funds to be used by the DOJ to bring any action against any state for implementation of new voter identification legislation.

Republican leaders are not denying that these cuts are related to the department’s apparent unwillingness to turn over materials to Congress. These cuts were approved in a vote after Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) vented his frustration with the DOJ on the House floor.

“This is not about politics to me,” Gowdy said. “This is about respect for the rule of law, it’s about answers, it’s about accountability, and it’s about acceptance of responsibility. I will not, I cannot stand idly by while oversight of this body is ignored.”

The only Democrat to protest the amendments was Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.).

“I think that anyone in our country knows that this is a political matter, and that what we need to do is do our actual work here,” he said. “And our work here is to deal with appropriations to figure out what the resources are that the Department of Justice needs to do its work.”

Follow Caryn Freeman on Twitter at @CarynFreemanDC