At the Conservative Political Action Conference late last week, Republican Rep. Andy Biggs, the current chair of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, talked up some of the goals he’d like to see his party prioritize if they’re in the majority next year — particularly when it comes to law enforcement.
“There are things you can do,” the Arizonan said, reflecting on Congress’ power. Biggs added, “You start defunding some of these bad agencies. The FBI. The DOJ.”
It might be tempting to dismiss such talk from a far-right member as irrelevant, but what’s striking is the degree to which rhetoric like this has become common, even among more influential Republicans. Roll Call reported two weeks ago, for example, on comments House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy made at a recent conservative gathering.
Speaking to the America First Policy Institute gathering in Washington, McCarthy previewed some of the policy areas to be covered, including energy, crime and foreign policy. “We’re going to withhold money [from] any prosecutor that doesn’t uphold the law and picks and chooses who they go to prosecute,” McCarthy said.
Right off the bat, it’s probably worth emphasizing that prosecutorial discretion isn’t exactly a new concept in American law enforcement. But just as notable was seeing the would-be Speaker of the House speaking publicly about his intention to defund prosecutors that Republicans disagree with.
Indeed, as the midterm elections near, Republicans aren’t just targeting Democrats, immigrants, journalists, school teachers, transgender Americans, and abortion doctors.
The GOP is also increasingly focused on prosecutors as a convenient political villain.
During yesterday’s Senate proceedings, for example, Sen. Marco Rubio was among the members pushing poison-pill amendments to the Inflation Reduction Act. Not long after sunrise, the Florida Republican published a tweet that read, “The Democrats just blocked my effort to try and force Soros-backed prosecutors to put dangerous criminals in jail.”
The wording was problematic on a variety of levels — some critics questioned the reference to George Soros as possibly being anti-Semitic — but at its root, Rubio explicitly directed his criticism at law enforcement officials he disagrees with.
It came on the heels of another Florida Republican, Gov. Ron DeSantis, ousting an elected state attorney for taking positions on abortion and trans care that the governor didn’t like.
Don’t be surprised if this dynamic intensifies in the coming months and years. I’m reminded of this NBC News report published soon after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
Dozens of elected prosecutors said Friday they would refuse to prosecute those seeking, assisting or providing abortions after the Supreme Court overturned the 1973 ruling that guaranteed a constitutional right to abortion. Prosecutors from 29 states, territories and Washington, D.C., signed a joint statement that included signatories from states like Mississippi, Missouri and Wisconsin that have banned or are poised to ban abortion services following the reversal of Roe v. Wade.
Does the GOP intend to suspend and/or defund all of them, too?