Chairman Serrano Statement at Hearing on FY 2020 DOJ Budget Request

2019-04-09 11:00

Congressman José E. Serrano (D-NY), Chair of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on the fiscal year 2020 budget request for the Department of Justice:

The subcommittee will come to order. 

Today we welcome the new Attorney General, William Barr, before the Subcommittee.  As the Attorney General during the George H.W. Bush Administration, he has testified before this subcommittee in the past, but this is his first time in quite a while. Welcome and congratulations on your new/old position. 

We also welcome Assistant Attorney General for Administration Lee Lofthus.  Because Attorney General Barr was not confirmed when this year’s budget proposal was largely formulated, he has asked that the Assistant Attorney General be allowed to join him at the table to answer some of the nuts and bolts budget questions that we will ask.

This year we have held several hearings with components of the Department, including the FBI, the ATF, the Civil Rights Division, and the Executive Office for Immigration Review.  I appreciate the willingness of the Department to come and testify before our subcommittee, even though we may have very different opinions on issues.

Let me take a moment to describe some concerns prompted by those hearings.  We have heard what appears to be a lack of commitment to the Department’s traditional missions to defend civil rights,  disability rights, and prevent discrimination.  We have discussed what appears to be a clear animus towards policies that protect individuals’ health care, voting rights, access to education, and much, much more. We have discussed the need for additional resources to address gun violence in this country, while at the same time hearing ATF say that the budget request would result in staffing reductions.  We have talked to the head of the Executive Office for Immigration Review about the need to protect due process and fairness in our immigration courts, and the many policy changes that make such goals more difficult to achieve. We have heard the FBI describe the threats our nation faces, but also that their budget request will not fully fund their efforts to address those threats.  As we discuss your department today, we are faced with a budget request that fails to address many of these concerns and raises new problems.

Of course, we cannot hold this hearing without mentioning the elephant in the room.  Two and a half weeks ago the Mueller Report was completed.  In extremely quick fashion, you turned a 300-plus page report into a 4-page letter that supposedly summarized the findings.  Last week, the New York Times reported that the Special Counsel’s office had already created summary documents that were ignored in your letter, and that some investigators within the Special Counsel’s office felt that your summary understates the level of malfeasance by the President and several of his campaign and White House advisors.  The American people have been left with many unanswered questions; serious concerns about the process by which you formulated your letter; and uncertainty about when we can expect to see the full report.  I believe the American people deserve to see the full Mueller Report, and to be trusted to make their own determinations on the merits based on what the Special Counsel has presented. 

Since 2017, our nation’s Justice Department has far too often failed to meet the needs of the American people.  I hope that with your ascension to Attorney General, we can work together to change that. With that said, let me turn to the Ranking Member, Mr. Aderholt, for any comments that he may have.

116th Congress