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Rep. Ben Cline says Republicans on Appropriations subcommittee support cutting FBI funds

A House Republican who serves on the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Justice Department and the FBI says GOP lawmakers are ready to rein in the FBI’s funding.

Rep. Ben Cline of Virginia said Thursday that the debt ceiling agreement between House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Biden has led GOP appropriators to seek deeper cuts as they go through this year’s 12 appropriation bills.

“We’re pushing the speaker to go below those levels — cut even deeper, especially in the Justice Department/FBI category, where we are making progress,” Mr. Cline said on SiriusXM’s Wilkow Majority program.

“We have support from the subcommittee chairman — Hal Rogers. So we’re fighting hard to drain the swamp here in D.C.,” he said.

FBI Director Christopher A. Wray testified before the subcommittee on April 27 to support the bureau’s 2024 budget request of $11.4 billion to carry out the FBI’s national security, intelligence, criminal law enforcement, and criminal justice services missions.

In Thursday’s show, Mr. Cline expressed specific skepticism about the FBI request for money for a new headquarters.

In March, the president’s fiscal 2024 budget proposal included a $233 million discretionary appropriation for the Federal Buildings Fund from the Federal Capital Revolving Fund to provide for the first of 15 years of repayment toward the FBI’s new suburban headquarters.

Ultimately, it would amount to a $3.5 billion allocation.

Over the last decade, Virginia and Maryland officials have been vying to be the federal law enforcement agency’s new location.

But Republicans have taken issue over the FBI’s and Justice Department’s actions against former President Donald Trump, his 2016 campaign, his former administration, investigations of Catholic churches and parents protesting school boards, executing warrantless searches on U.S. citizens, and dispatching raids on pro-life activists.

“When it comes to the FBI headquarters, you know, so many of these employees are working from home now. They’re phoning it in. When it comes to needing a building, essentially the size of the Pentagon, that just doesn’t fly,” Mr. Cline said.

“They want to move out [of DC] and just take over a large swath of land and set up a new empire. But, you know, with the abuses that have been going on at the FBI, there’s a real resistance to that not just in the Freedom Caucus, not just on the Appropriations Committee, but across the entire Republican conference,” he said.

“So you are seeing pushback, and you are seeing a move to actually put the brakes on this new headquarters,” he said.

Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland, a fellow Appropriations panel Republican, previously told The Washington Times he thought that the FBI building’s funding “is in definite jeopardy.”

Mr. Cline and Mr. Harris are half of the four Freedom Caucus members who serve on the Appropriations Committee, a panel known for more-establishment lawmakers who do not ordinarily shake up federal department budgets. The other two Freedom Caucus members on the panel are Reps. Michael Cloud of Texas and Andrew Clyde of Georgia.  

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Pete Aguilar of California recently condemned Mr. McCarthy, California Republican, for appointing such “extreme” GOP members on the committee who will be marking up appropriations bills for fiscal 2024.

“Speaker McCarthy has placed some of these extreme members on the Appropriations Committee as part of his deal when he was auctioning off seats and trying to get the speaker’s gavel,” Mr. Aguilar told reporters at a weekly press conference.

Mr. Cline says that there is now a push on the panel from GOP leadership to redirect funds from the FBI to law enforcement on the southern border.

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the former second-ranking House Democrat, is one of his state’s leading voices fighting to bring the bureau there. In a statement to The Times, Mr. Hoyer called the Republicans’ likely move “blatant hypocrisy.”

“For more than a decade, we’ve had bipartisan agreement that the current FBI Headquarters fails to meet the needs of the FBI’s mission and their security requirements. Republicans’ latest effort to hold this independent law enforcement agency hostage during the Fiscal Year 2024 Appropriations process puts our national security at risk,” Mr. Hoyer said.

“This blatant hypocrisy is yet another example of congressional Republicans’ choice to prioritize their own political agenda over the security of all American people. Our federal law enforcement agents deserve the resources they need to do their jobs and keep our communities safe — regardless of who controls Congress,” he said.

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