As part of a $53.4 billion spending bill, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies voted Tuesday to sustain funding for legal aid.
The subcommittee, chaired by Alabama Republican Richard Shelby, approved an appropriation to the Legal Services Corp. for $385 million. This is equal to what the agency is currently receiving for fiscal year 2017 and $85 million more than what the U.S. House of Representatives provided in its proposed budget.
Linda Klein, president of the American Bar Association, applauded the subcommittee’s vote.
“The ABA strongly believes that everyone should have access to justice and representation in our legal system,” Klein said in a statement. “Federal funding for the Legal Services Corporation helps meet the constitutional promise of equal justice under law. One-fourth of all funding for the LSC comes from the federal government and is instrumental in helping the LSC meet the constitutional promise of equal justice under the law.”
LSC is the single largest funder of civil legal aid programs in the United States. It provides funding for 133 organizations, including Indiana Legal Services.
Funding for Legal Services Corp. gained renewed importance this year when the Trump administration offered a budget that dropped all financial support for the agency. The House retained the appropriation to LSC but cut the amount to $300 million.
The ABA then called upon the Senate to appropriate $527.8 million, the full amount LSC had requested for fiscal year 2018. Indiana Sens. Todd Young, a Republican, and Joe Donnelly, a Democrat, have both said they support Congressional funding for legal aid.
“The Committee has made difficult but responsible decisions to produce a bill that strikes a financial balance between the competing priorities of law enforcement, national security, scientific advancement and economic development,” Shelby said in a statement after the subcommittee’s vote.
The measure now advances to the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations where it is scheduled for consideration Thursday.