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Public Statements

Making Further Continuing Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2003

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, I am pleased to cosponsor Senator HARKIN'S amendment to restore full funding to the Edward Byrne Memorial State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance Program, a program which is used to fund crime and drug prevention programs in communities nationwide.

The bill before use today cuts the Byrne grant program by $500 million, in essence eviscerating it. I have trouble understanding why anyone would choose to decrease funding for a program that strives to improve the criminal justice system and increase public safety.

Cutting this program has real consequences in my home State of Delaware. There, Byrne grant money goes to fund a wide range of significant drug abuse and prevention programs, juvenile crime initiatives and other criminal justice projects, including: Delaware's Key and Crest programs, which help criminal offenders get off of drugs and decrease there chance of re-offending once they are released from jail; drug treatment services for criminal offenders in drug court programs; drunk driving patrols in Dover, DE; and drug prevention programs such as "Heroin Hurts" which educates teens about the dangers of the deadly pure heroin available in my State.

The Byrne program is distributed as a block grant to each State, based on a State's population. Delaware typically receives almost $2.5 million per year. It's critical funding, funding that secures the hometown and that helps keep our kids safe and drug-free.

I could go on about the good Byrne has done in Delaware. We have used Byrne funds to create eight community-based crime prevention programs around my State. In New Castle County and Dover, these programs offered training and services to adults and youth in high crime areas. Another project identified hate crime hotspots throughout New Castle County and increased police services through a specialized hate crime unit to those areas.

We have used Byrne funds to train prison officers, to improve our criminal justice records, and to expand the Delaware State Police's crime mapping project.

Byrne is an incredibly flexible law enforcement program. It's amazing to me that we would propose to eliminate it in this bill. I will fight this cut, and I am pleased to stand with my friend from Iowa in offering this amendment to restore Byrne funds.

Mr. President, I cannot fathom why my colleagues are doing this. This is the single most popular, effective program that has existed in helping State law enforcement. Everybody on that side knows that. It has all the Republican attributes. It is flexible. It is one of those programs that the States like very much.

The Presiding Officer from South Carolina knows how it works in South Carolina, and in this rush to be able to make room for these cockamamie priorities, what are we doing? We are cutting FBI agents. We eliminate the Violent Crimes Task Force. The FBI cannot function in the States on ordinary crimes such as bank robbery and interstate car theft. We cut another 800 FBI agents, or thereabouts, under this proposal.

We are cutting the COPS program. I think my colleagues have it backwards. I think this is the most cockamamie idea I have heard in a long while. This narrow definition of a constitutional national defense is going to come back to bite us.

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