Just two weeks ago, the Congress passed the $787 billion economic stimulus bill, which included $3.8 billion for law enforcement, much of it destined for continuing the war on drugs. On Monday, the free-spending House Democratic leadership was at it again as it unveiled its fiscal year 2009 omnibus appropriations bill, and again there is more money for drug law enforcement.
While the Byrne JAG grants can be used to fund drug courts and drug prevention programs, they are most commonly used to fund multi-jurisdictional anti-drug law enforcement task forces, such as the ones that ran amok in Texas in recent years. Arguing that the spending had not proven effective, the Bush administration attempted to substantially reduce or even zero out Byrne JAG grant funding, but faced constant opposition from "tough on crime" representatives from both parties.
Besides funding the Byrne JAG grant program at higher levels than last year, the appropriations bill includes $550 million for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program, which got $1 billion just two weeks ago in the economic stimulus bill. It also includes another $3.2 billion for state and local law enforcement crime prevention grants -- another area where the Bush administration sought and got funding reductions. This grant program was cut from $4.7 billion to $2.7 billion during the Bush years.
And so is the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The congressional response to a federal prison system straining under the results of harsh federal drug law enforcement and sentencing laws is to simply increase the prison budget. Under the bill, the BOP budget would jump nearly 10% to $6.2 billion.
There are also drug war spending increases -- and one notable decrease -- in the State Department and foreign operations section of the appropriations bill. The Merida Initiative to assist the Mexican state in its battle against violent drug trafficking organizations would get $405 million. That's on top of a $465 million emergency appropriation already passed. And the State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement -- known colloquially as "drugs and thugs" -- is in line for a whopping 35% budget increase, from $557 million in 2008 to $875 million this year.
The one drug war loser in the appropriations bill is Plan Colombia, known as the Andean Counterdrug Program under the Bush administration. With the US having poured more than $5 billion into the program since 1999, only to see coca production increase, House Democrats are moving to shave just a few dollars from that failed program. Instead of the $405 million the Bush administration requested for 2009 or the $320 million that Plan Colombia received in 2008, the new appropriations bill has only $315 million for the Andean drug war.