Rogers Remarks at FY24 Budget Hearing for the Department of Justice (As Prepared)

Mar 29, 2023

Good morning.

The Subcommittee will come to order. Without objection, the Chair is authorized to declare recesses at any time.

We welcome everyone to this morning’s hearing and I will begin by recognizing myself for an opening statement.

Mr. Attorney General, I would like to welcome you to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee today to testify regarding the Department of Justice’s fiscal year 2024 budget request.

Your budget requests a total of roughly $40 billion in discretionary resources for the Department of Justice, an increase of over $2 billion over the fiscal year 2023 enacted level.

The Department’s budget submission outlines positive themes such as: upholding the rule of law, keeping our country safe, and administering just courts and correctional systems.

However, I am concerned these themes simply give lip service to the American people while the details outlined in your budget fail to adequately address these concerns.

The American people continue to be concerned with the growing opioid epidemic. Synthetic opioids such as fentanyl remain the primary driver of the increase in overdose deaths.

In your own budget submission, you note data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health and Statistics, which indicate an estimated 107,000 Americans needlessly died of drug overdoses in the United States during 2021, an increase of nearly 15% from 2020.

With that backdrop, we received your budget which doesn’t seem to convey the appropriate sense of urgency. The Drug Enforcement Agency’s budget request, for example, requests only 4 additional agents for fiscal year 2024.

Additionally, the Department’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces’ budget – whose mission is to reduce the supply of illegal drugs in the United States – would actually see a reduction of $25 million and the loss of approximately 70 agents.

We don’t have to look far though to see where the Department’s true priorities appear to lie. As the DEA and the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces request little or even less funding, your budget submission requests nearly $45 million dollars across components for “zero emission vehicles” to meet President Biden’s Executive Order 14057 requiring vehicle fleet electrification.

A similar theme can be observed when it comes to your Department’s efforts to meaningfully combat violent crime across the country.

As you sadly note in your budget submission, the United States has experienced a dramatic increase in violent crime incidents, with the number of violent crimes increasing by 29% in 2021.

While our federal law enforcement officers have the enormous responsibility of arresting violent criminals, the Department also has the responsibility to hold these criminals accountable. Unfortunately, recent actions from the Department appear to be sending the wrong message.

On December 16th of last year, you issued a memorandum providing updated guidance to federal prosecutors on the Department’s policies regarding charging, pleas, and sentencing for federal offenses – a memorandum that will only have the effect of making it even more difficult for prosecutors to hold criminal defendants accountable.

These changes send the wrong message to potential criminals at what could not be a worse time across the country.

Justice requires accountability, and your memorandum handcuffing our federal prosecutors  moves the Department in the wrong direction.

Our job is to ensure the Department’s budget is carried out efficiently, effectively, and to the benefit of the American people.

I strongly believe that supporting law enforcement and efforts to combat the opioid epidemic should be a top priority for this subcommittee.

Attorney General Garland, we recognize that you have an incredibly demanding job, and I appreciate you being here today. I hope your testimony today will reveal well-reasoned approaches to the many difficult criminal justice issues that affect our local communities.

We want to work with you to ensure that the programs you administer are as effective and efficient as possible in supporting the rule of law.

I look forward to working with Ranking Member Cartwright to identify and appropriately fund the important missions of the Department of Justice as this year’s appropriations process moves forward.

At this time, I would like to recognize Mr. Cartwright for any remarks he may wish to make.