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Sen. Coons continues to press for bulletproof vest funding

Delaware’s junior senator, Chris Coons (D-Delaware), isn’t giving up on reauthorizing a federal program that subsidizes bulletproof vests for local police agencies.

Thursday morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee had the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program on its meeting agenda, but failed to take it up before recessing. Under the initiative, local police agencies pay for half of the vests’ price tag, while the federal government picks up the rest of the tab.

Coons, a Judiciary Committee member, says his colleague Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma blocked the bill last year because he doesn’t believe the federal government should fund local programs. Coons says that’s a mistake.

“The federal government plays a key, catalytic role providing groundbreaking studies, delivering new technology and providing leverage that encourages local governments, local agencies to move ahead in either policy or in equipment,” said Coons.

Coons adds he’s ready to work to change Coburn’s mind.

“To the extent he’s got some legitimate concerns about cost or scope, I’m happy to entertain them. But to the extent that he is simply being an obstructionist, it’s my hope that we can persuade a majority of his caucus to join with us and to get this passed.”

Vests obtained through the program are credited with saving the lives of two Capitol Police officers in Delaware during the shooting at the New Castle County Courthouse in February.

The committee now won’t likely take up the issue until lawmakers return in September from an upcoming month long congressional break.