Mar 28, 2022 - Politics & Policy

First look: Biden to ask Congress to fund the police

Photograph of a police officer from behind, with a cap on and a vest marked "police."
Photo: Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

President Biden will propose more than $32 billion in new spending to fight crime, two White House officials familiar with his 2023 budget plans tells Axios, putting a price tag on his State of the Union call to fund — not defund — the police.

Why it matters: Biden wants to show Americans he is addressing rising crime, which threatens Democrats' fortunes in the midterm elections.

Details: The budget proposal to be released Monday will include $20.6 billion for the next fiscal year for Department of Justice discretionary spending on federal law enforcement, crime prevention and intervention. That's $2 billion more than the $18.6 billion enacted for the current fiscal year.

  • The proposal also would mandate $30 billion in new spending over the next decade on a variety of programs to expand law enforcement and crime prevention. Details on those programs have not yet been released.

The expanded discretionary spending would increase resources for federal prosecutors and give additional resources to state and local law enforcement to put more police on the beat.

  • It would more than double the funding for community policing through the COPS Hiring Program. It also would add $500 million for so-called community violence interventions — a tenfold increase.
  • It would pay for nearly 300 new deputy marshals and related personnel.
  • It would pay for 140 Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) agents and investigators working on gun-trafficking strike forces in five major U.S. cities; and 160 ATF investigators working on gun-dealer compliance.
  • It would significantly increase funds for law enforcement agencies to trace firearms found at crime scenes.

Between the lines: The president has been looking for ways to distance himself from progressives over how to combat crime, and to convince swing voters he understands their concerns about feeling unsafe.

  • In his State of the Union address this month, Biden said, "We should all agree: The answer is not to defund the police. It's to fund the police. Fund them. Fund them. Fund them with resources and training."
  • In February, he met with New York Mayor Eric Adams, a retired police officer who captured his party’s nomination by focusing on crime to burnish his public safety credentials.

The big picture: The overall budget Biden is set to unveil is expected to propose increases across defense and non-defense spending and a "billionaire's tax" to pay for $1 trillion in deficit reduction over a decade, the Washington Post and Associated Press reported.

  • A new minimum tax on the wealthiest Americans would require households worth more than $100 million to pay at least 20% of their income, according to the Post.
  • “The President’s budget will reflect three important values: fiscal responsibility, safety and security at home and abroad, and a commitment to building a better America," one White House official told Axios.

Don't forget: While presidents use their budgets to articulate their spending priorities and overall agenda, their official proposals rarely become law.

What we're watching: Biden is expected to include a placeholder for a revised version of his Build Back Better agenda without specifics for how much he plans to spend, according to Bloomberg.

  • His administration is trying to figure out how to re-engage Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) who killed a version of Biden’s plans in December. Manchin has signaled that he may be open to returning to the negotiating table for a smaller bill that addresses climate, energy and deficit reduction.
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