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The White House has been talking tough to Congress about cutting “pork” from the federal budget in order to whittle the deficit. But when Attorney General Alberto Gonzales went before the House appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Justice Department’s budget on March 14, he was on the receiving end of some flak from Republicans and Democrats alike. At issue were concerns that the fight against terrorism was draining resources from other law enforcement priorities. Methamphetamine use was on the minds of many members, particularly a White House proposal to cut 179 agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration while slashing — by more than a third — grants to local communities to fund law enforcement efforts against meth labs. “Meth is running rampant,” subcommittee Chairman Frank Wolf (R-Va.) told Gonzales in a near shout. “You have children, and you cut the program.” Gonzales, ever respectful and soft-spoken, told the committee that combating drugs remained a priority. “I don’t think you can live the American dream if you’re high, quite frankly,” he said, adding that “I don’t think it’s appropriate to judge the president’s commitment or my commitment in the war against meth solely by this budget.” To that a red-faced Wolf snapped: “It’s not what you say, it’s what you do.” And congressmen from both parties showed an interest in pouring more money into the Federal Bureau of Investigation, an agency that has already seen its funding grow by 87 percent during the Bush years. The president’s 2007 budget calls for adding just a single FBI special agent. Though the budget calls for continued growth in FBI funding, most of that money is dedicated to updating the bureau’s aging infrastructure, such as its new Sentinel computer system. “The Chinese government is spying on our companies, spying on our national labs,” Wolf told Gonzales. “One more agent, is that appropriate?” One Republican who gave Gonzales a warmer welcome was the subcommittee’s newest member, Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), the former majority leader. “It’s great to see a fellow Texan,” DeLay told Gonzales in his opening remarks. “After this hearing you’ll probably want to go back to Texas and get your batteries charged.”
Jason McLure can be contacted at [email protected].

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