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House panel advances bill that contains body camera funding

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The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday advanced a $51.4 billion bill containing funding for a program that would provide law enforcement agencies with body cameras.

The bill, which funds the Justice and Commerce departments, as well as science agencies, includes $50 million for a Community Policing Initiative. Of that amount, $15 million would be intended for body cameras. That’s much less than the $50 million the White House requested from Congress for body cameras for the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

{mosads}Republicans pointed to spending constraints in the 2011 Budget Control Act that limit discretionary funding.

“Because of that cap, we’ve been forced to prioritize,” said Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) during the panel’s markup.

Republicans said they prioritized funding for law enforcement, counterterrorism programs and cybersecurity.

While the bill for fiscal 2016 provides $1.3 billion more than the current level, it would be $661 million less than President Obama’s request.

Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) offered an amendment that would breach the bill’s funding cap by boosting resources for law enforcement and crime prevention efforts.

But Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) pointed out that the amendment, which provided no way to offset its costs, would kill the bill at the committee level.

“It’s an opportunity for us to make a point,” Fattah said, about the need for relieving sequester budget ceilings that are set to return in October.

“That’s our point exactly,” he said. “We think that the cap stands in the way of us moving toward a more perfect union.”

Under the bill, the Justice Department would receive $852 million more than the 2015 level, while the Commerce Department would get about $250 million less than it currently does.

Beyond funding for community policing, Democrats accused the bill of underfunding science programs and the U.S. Census Bureau.

A day earlier, White House budget director Shaun Donovan laid out the administration’s opposition in a letter to Rogers.

Donovan said he appreciated the funding for community policing in the wake of widespread protests and riots related to officer conduct.

“However, compared to the President’s Budget, the Subcommittee bill fails to adequately fund all of the elements necessary to fully support law enforcement and improve relations between communities and police,” Donovan said.

Among the bill’s policy riders, Donovan said the White House opposes provisions that would restrict the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay prison to the U.S. as well as provisions that would inhibit efforts to combat gun trafficking.

The committee wrapped in several amendments, including one proposed by a Democrat that adds language for studying ways to counter violent extremism.

Tags Body cameras Chaka Fattah Shaun Donovan
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