WASHINGTON — A small group of U.S. Senate Republicans sought to draw attention to U.S. crime rates Wednesday, saying they plan to introduce a bill that would direct more resources to state and local police departments as well as require the Government Accountability Office to study the amount of time it takes crime labs to process rape kits.
“We are offering solutions to combat this violent crime wave that is plaguing our nation and our cities,” said Tennessee Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn during an afternoon press conference.
Blackburn was joined by fellow Republican Sens. Mike Braun of Indiana, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and John Kennedy of Louisiana. Grassley, Johnson and Kennedy are up for reelection in November’s midterm elections in which Republicans are seeking to make Democrats’ record on crime a major issue.
The yet-to-be released bill, Blackburn said, would create a grant program for local and state police departments to hire more officers and detectives to focus on violent crimes as well as increase resources for police departments to address drug crimes.
Funding for federal law enforcement as well as grants for state and local police departments are typically handled through Congress’ annual appropriations process, not one-off bills such as the one the Republicans detailed. And it was unclear Wednesday if the legislation the Republicans plan to introduce at some point would garner the bipartisan support needed to get past the chamber’s 60-vote legislative filibuster, especially with little time left in the legislative session before lawmakers leave to campaign.
The most recent federal spending package, enacted in March with broad bipartisan support, appropriated $3.88 billion for grants from the U.S. Department of Justice to local and state law enforcement agencies, a 15% increase over the prior fiscal year’s bill, and $575 million for the Office on Violence Against Women grants, the highest funding level ever for that program.
The funding package also included $201 million for State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance and Community Oriented Policing Services, a program intended to improve relationships between police departments and the communities they serve. That represented a 31% boost in funding over the previous year’s level.
The GOP senators on Wednesday, in pushing for their future bill, recounted graphic details from numerous crimes, including the names of victims, before chastising Democratic lawmakers for their approach to police funding and police accountability. Read more