Democrats are gearing up for another “defund the police” messaging fight — except this time it’s highlighting Republicans calls to defund the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Justice Department. And don’t be surprised if it makes its way into some campaign ads later this cycle.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has already begun the process by declaring, in a letter to his Senate colleagues, he’ll bring a vote to the floor this week to reject Donald Trump’s call to defund the FBI and DOJ one day after his indictment by a Manhattan DA.
The resolution will recognize the dedication of federal law enforcement, condemn calls to defund the agencies and reject attempts by Trump to “degrade public trust in Federal law enforcement agencies.”
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene R-Ga. has also repeatedly called to “defund” the FBI, DOJ, and federal officials who she believes are politically weaponizing the agencies. “There has to be a punishment there,” Greene told Semafor during last month’s Republican retreat. “And there needs to be defunding of departments and people that work in the FBI and Department of Justice that have abused their power for political persecution.”
This isn’t the first time Democrats have capitalized on Republicans’ call to defund federal agencies. Bo Hines, a young, Trump-endorsed Republican candidate, narrowly lost to Rep. Wiley Nickel in North Carolina’s 13th congressional district after House Majority PAC ran ads featuring Hines calling to defund the IRS and the FBI in an interview.
We saw this strategy work brilliantly for Republicans during the 2020 House and Senate races, when Republicans — latching onto what was the sentiment of a few House progressives, but mostly activists — famously accused even the most moderate Democrats of wanting to defund the police. Democrats retooled their messaging, but not without consternation from members in swing districts who felt they were still paying the price for progressives’ rhetorical excesses.
Republicans risk the same fate, especially with figures like Trump and Greene giving “defund the FBI” calls a much higher profile in the 2024 cycle than in 2022.
“The refusal by extremist House Republicans to stand with law enforcement and their silence on Trump’s abhorrent comments is damning,” a House Majority PAC spokesperson told Semafor. “House Majority PAC will ensure anti-law enforcement MAGA Republicans are held accountable and voted out in 2024.”