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ROUNDUP: “Tough-On-Crime” House Republicans Want to Defund Law Enforcement—Including Gun Violence Specialists

Apr 25, 2023

Jim Jordan and his MAGA colleagues are holding yet another hearing attacking top federal law enforcement agencies. Undermining public safety is just another partisan stunt for the House GOP. We’ve already seen this before: less than a week after a school shooting devastated Nashville families, Republicans held a hearing attacking the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for regulating weapons and firearm manufacturers. They have refused to take action on gun violence, and not a single Republican in Congress voted for billions in federal funding for public safety and law enforcement. Now, top House Judiciary Republicans are vocal advocates for defunding the highest law enforcement agencies in the country, including ATF. There can be no doubt that these MAGA lawmakers care more about scoring points with their far-right base than ensuring public safety.

2021: House Republicans Voted Against Funding for Law Enforcement and Public Safety. In 2021, not one Republican in Congress voted for the American Rescue Plan Act, which appropriated $10 billion in investments in public safety and violence prevention, including $1 billion in bonuses for front-line public safety workers, $450 million in public safety technology and equipment like new police cars, upgraded radio systems, body-worn cameras, and gunshot detection systems, and $11 million in police overtime. All but one of the returning Republicans currently serving on the House Judiciary voted against funding for law enforcement; Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-WI) was absent. [HR 1319, 3/10/21; White House, 5/13/22]

2023: House Republicans Introduced the “Abolish the ATF Act.” Less than a week after House Republicans finally named Speaker Kevin McCarthy a group of MAGA legislators, including Judiciary committee members Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Andy Biggs (R-AZ), introduced legislation to abolish the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) without replacement. The bill has been referred to the Judiciary committee, and this hearing suggests that further action is on the table. [HR 374, 1/17/23]

Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (R-OH)

  • 2020: Jordan Said Defunding The Police & Border Patrol Would Lead to “Crime, Violence, and Mob Rule.” During a speech at the 2020 Republican National Convention, Jordan denounced calls to “defund the police, defund border patrol” as enabling “crime, violence, and mob rule.” [Business Insider, 8/24/20]
  • 2023: Jordan Vowed to Target ATF, Defund Federal Police Over Donald Trump Indictment. In March 2023, Jordan suggested he would use the appropriations process to target the ATF if the agency continued to refuse to deregulate deadly firearm attachments. After Manhattan prosecutors indicted former President Trump, Jordan took to Fox News to suggest defunding other federal law enforcement agencies as well: “We control the power of the purse, and we’re going to have to look at the appropriation process and limit funds going to some of these agencies, particularly the ones who are engaged in the most egregious behavior.” When pushed if he was referring to the DOJ and FBI, Jordan responded, “yes.” [Roll Call, 3/27/23; Newsweek, 4/3/23; Rolling Stone, 4/2/23]

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL)

  • 2020: Gaetz Denounced Calls To Defund the Police As “Dangerous and Deadly.” In a June 2020 press release, Gaetz “denounced the left’s dangerous and deadly campaign to “defund the police,” displaying inflammatory tweets by activists promoting radical agendas that were retweeted and supported by progressive Democrat Members of Congress. [Congressman Matt Gaetz, 6/10/20]
  • 2021: Gaetz Tweeted, Then Quickly Deleted, Suggestion To “Defund the FBI” Amid Ongoing Sex Trafficking Investigation By The Agency. In June 2021, Gaetz tweeted: “If Democrats want to defund the police, they should start with the FBI,” before deleting it minutes later. At the time, Gaetz was under federal investigation over allegations that he paid for sex with an underage girl after one of his close associates was charged with sex trafficking charges (and later imprisoned for 11 years). [Daily Mail (UK), 6/24/21; CBS News, 12/1/22]
  • 2023: Gaetz: We’re Going To “Take A Meat Cleaver” To the ATF. After introducing the “Abolish the ATF Act,” Gaetz took to Fox News alongside MAGA favorite Lauren Boebert (R-CO) to lobby against the ATF: “My bill would abolish the ATF. If that doesn’t work, we’re going to try defunding the ATF. If that doesn’t work, we’re going to target the individual bureaucrats at the top of the ATF who have exceeded their authority in rulemaking. And if that doesn’t work, we’re going to take a meat cleaver to the statutes that the ATF believes broadly authorize their actions.” [Fox News, 1/18/23]
  • 2023: Gaetz: Abolish the ATF, Defund Every Last One of Them. During his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) of 2023, Gaetz declared: “I don’t care if it takes every second of our time and every ounce of our energy. We either get this government back on our side or we defund and get rid of, abolish the FBI, the CDC, ATF, DOJ, every last one of them if they do not come to heel.” [MSNBC, 3/6/23]

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ)

  • 2021: Biggs Denounced Calls To Defund the Police As “Reckless” and “Destructive. In a June 2021 letter to his Democratic colleagues, Biggs wrote: “we must defend the thin blue line and restore law and order,” denouncing “the reckless decisions to defund police forces.” He claimed that Republicans “condemned violence and been united against radical calls to defund the police,” and called for a hearing on the matter. [Congressman Andy Biggs, 6/16/21]
  • 2022: Biggs Said He Would Prioritize “Defunding Some of the Bad Agencies, Including the FBI and DOJ. When asked about GOP priorities during a panel at CPAC, Biggs said, “That’s what you do, you start defunding some of these bad agencies. The FBI. The DOJ.” [MSNBC, 8/8/22]
  • 2023: Biggs Suggested Congress Eliminate the ATF, Defund Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. In March 2023, Rep. Biggs suggested that Republican lawmakers eliminate the ATF: “I would suggest that the most effective approach is to reduce funding, or better still eliminate all funding. And even better, eliminate this woke, weaponized agency.” Weeks later, after Manhattan prosecutors indicted former President Trump, Biggs introduced legislation prohibiting state and local law enforcement agencies from using certain federal funds or property seized through asset forfeiture to investigate Presidential or Vice-Presidential candidates. [Roll Call, 3/27/23; The Arizona Republic, 4/13/23]

Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX)

  • 2020: Roy Denounced Efforts to Defund The Police: “They Are Bat Crap Crazy.” During a House Judiciary committee hearing in June 2022, Roy condemned efforts to defund police forces in his district as “bat crap crazy,” stating “defunding law enforcement has consequences.” [Forbes, 6/20/22, VIDEO]
  • 2023: Roy Announced Plans to “Stop Funding” Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security. In a speech to the House, Roy said, “we’re going to have to stop funding a Department of Homeland Security that refuses to secure the border of the United States,” following up on earlier comments suggesting that he would “do a deep dive” on defunding the “witch-hunting” FBI as well. [Business Insider, 1/10/23; Politico, 9/26/22]

Rep. Ben Cline (R-VA)

  • 2021: Press Release: “Rep. Cline Opposes Defunding The Police.” In March 2021, Cline gave a speech on the House floor denouncing efforts to “defund and dismantle our police departments across the country.” His office published a video of the speech in a press release entitled, “Rep. Cline Opposes Defunding The Police.” [Congressman Ben Cline, 3/4/21]
  • 2023: Cline Listed The FBI As A “Top Target” For Budget Cuts. In a March 2023 interview, Cline reportedly said that the FBI and ATF are reportedly “top targets” for budget cuts amid ongoing appropriations hearings, telling reporters, “I’ve seen the attorney general more often in Appropriations than I ever have in Judiciary. When you are talking about an agency’s budget, the agency head is usually quick to come up to Capitol Hill to answer questions.” [Axios, 3/15/23]

Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC)

  • 2022: When Asked If He Wanted to Defund the FBI, Bishop Said “Nothing Could Be Further From The Truth.” “Somebody said … you want to defund the FBI. Nothing could be further from the truth. But it needs to be organized so that it returns to its robust strength and fortitude as a law enforcement agency” [Politico, 9/26/22]
  • 2023: Bishop Said He’s Focusing On “Immediate Cuts” to Reduce the “Weaponization of Government,” Referring To A House Judiciary Investigation Into the FBI and DOJ. In a March 2023 interview, Bishop told reporters “the focus of what we do in terms of immediate cuts should be reducing the weaponization of government,” a reference to Judiciary’s select subcommittee investigating the so-called weaponization of the federal government by the intelligence community, particularly the FBI. [Axios, 3/15/23]

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) 

  • 2020: “Absolute Wrong Thing To Do” Massie Denounced Calls to Defund the Police On Fox News. In June 2020, Massie took to Fox Business, claiming: “defunding the police is the absolute wrong thing to do. […] I think that should be left up to the state to legislate.” [Fox Business, 6/4/20]
  • 2022: Massie Said “Congress Has the Power To Dissolve” The DOJ and FBI. In January 2022, Massie tweeted, “DOJ & FBI are creations of Congress. Congress has the power to dissolve them. The idea that they can choose which information to give Congress is an illusion perpetrated by them.” Months later, in an interview with Politico, Massie reportedly said “we’ve got some oversight to catch up on,” referring to the two agencies, and “accused the FBI of having ‘strained’ its relationship with House Republicans ‘by politicizing everything.”  [Thomas Massie Twitter, 1/12/22; Politico, 9/26/22]