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Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. AUSTIN SCOTT of Georgia. Mr. Chairman, I rise today to strike $328 million in funding for the Legal Services Corporation. Now, at no point in the past 32 years has any party in Congress felt that this agency was important enough to reauthorize it. That's just the fact.

Now let me put it another way. Since 1980, Congress has been appropriating the Legal Services Corporation an average of over $400 million a year while at the same time, again, deeming it unworthy of reauthorization.

Why has Congress not felt compelled to reauthorize the Legal Services Corporation? Perhaps it's because the Legal Services Corporation has become so far removed from its original intended purpose which was, yes, to provide attorneys for the poor.

In 1975, Congress created the Legal Services Corporation to provide free legal assistance to the poor in civil matters. Currently, they provide less than 6 percent of the need-based legal services in this country. Today, the States, bar associations, and private organizations provide the majority of the pro bono legal services to the poor.

The Legal Services Corporation has, in effect, become bounty hunters who attack farmers and other employers. Instead of representing the needy, they have chosen to focus their attention on another activity--actively lobbying, even though it is against the rules, for the advancement of their chosen Big Government priorities.

Fifteen years ago, Senator Phil Gramm explained his opposition to the program by saying, ``They're being advocates for the existing welfare bureaucracy, and while they may have a right to do it, they don't have a right to do it with taxpayers' money.''

Now every phone book in America has plenty of attorneys in it that will be happy to take any good case on a contingency fee. A recent analysis by The Washington Times found that the Legal Services Corporation--instead of spending your taxpayer dollars on what they were appropriated to do--purchased ``a decorative natural stone wall, more than 100 casino hotel rooms that were never occupied, limousines, and first-class airfare,'' rather than providing the need-based legal services that the funds were actually appropriated for.

The Legal Services Corporation has clearly been poor stewards of taxpayer dollars, and the constituency they were originally intended to serve simply does not need them, Mr. Chairman.

Tough decisions need to be made. This is not one of them. Certainly there is an attorney that will take any legitimate case that any citizen of this country has, whether they be poor or not. The Legal Services Corporation is duplicative; it's nonessential; it's unauthorized. I encourage my colleagues to defund it completely.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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