How Republicans Undercut Their Own Pro-Police Message

A Republican budget proposal would cut federal grants for hiring local police officers.
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WASHINGTON – House Republicans are using National Police Week to bash Democrats for allegedly pushing to “defund the police,” but Republicans themselves have repeatedly proposed funding cuts for police.

The Republican Study Committee, a policy group counting most House Republicans as members, puts out an annual budget proposal that calls for cutting the federal government’s main grant program for local police departments.

“Conservatives support our men and women [in] blue but should question whether the government should involve itself in state and local law enforcement, even if it is only a matter of funding,” this year’s Republican Study Committee budget says.

The Community Oriented Policing Services program is small, amounting to a fraction of a percent of the federal budget and supporting a tiny portion of police department personnel nationwide. But the proposed cut suggests Republican support for state and local law enforcement is mostly a cultural affinity and political wedge issue that doesn’t trump their general dislike of government.

On Wednesday, during a news conference with local police officials from around the country, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), a former chairman of the Republican Study Committee, said he was not familiar with the group’s latest budget, which is meant to showcase policy aspirations, not something that will get an actual vote on the House floor.

“I haven’t looked into the details of the RSC budget,” Johnson said in response to a question from HuffPost. “There’s lots of nuances. They also plus-up other areas where you support law enforcement, because that’s the central theme of what we believe, as part of our worldview, as part of our party platform.”

When Johnson chaired the Republican Study Committee, its 2020 budget called for eliminating grants to state and local police.

This week, Republicans plan to vote on a series of bills meant to highlight their support for police, including a bill to disallow Washington from rewriting its criminal code and another to speed the deportation of undocumented immigrants who assault police. The bills are symbolic and unlikely to make it through the Senate.

“Unfortunately for our House Republican colleagues, this week’s bills won’t be enough to hide the cuts they’ve proposed to law enforcement funding or the way they turned their backs on the officers who protected our democracy on January 6th,” Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.), the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, said in an emailed statement.

“Even police officers aren’t safe from the GOP’s obsession with gutting vital programs,” Boyle said.

In March, when the Republican Study Committee released its budget, the White House slammed Republicans for the police funding cut, noting that the pandemic relief bill President Joe Biden signed into law plugged state budget gaps that averted police layoffs. Biden has also proposed boosting the COPS hiring grant.

Last year the community policing grant program funneled $216 million to police departments around the country, funding 1,730 officer positions, per figures from the Justice Department. There were more than 800,000 police and detectives on the job in 2022, according to the latest Labor Department data, so the grant has a small impact — but its impact is felt in every state.

“These grants put officers on the streets and protect our citizens from criminals intent on harm,” Rep. Monica De La Cruz (R-Texas) said in a news release announcing grants for 13 officer positions at three police departments in her district. “I thank the Department of Justice for sending this money where it’s needed in South Texas and I thank the officers willing to step up and serve their communities.”

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