Tea Party Congressman Seeks to Abolish Legal Services Corporation

August 10, 2011

by Nicole Flatow

The House Appropriations Committee recently proposed a 26-percent cut to the Legal Services Corporation that would “cut to the bone” funding for civil legal aid for the indigent at a time when demand for those services is increasing.

But this proposal isn’t enough for one Tea Party member of Congress, who introduced a bill last week to abolish the Legal Services Corporation entirely.

The bill, the first introduced by Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.) since he joined the Congress, came just three days after news broke that workers represented by legal services attorneys won a case before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against a corporation in Scott’s district.

The coincidental timing of the bill did not go unnoticed by The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, who calls the proposal a “transparent attempt” to defend a company in his district at the expense of a program that both Democrats and many Republicans agree is needed.

Milbank notes that the facts of this case do not jibe with Scott’s Tea Party affiliation and anti-immigration messaging, because the EEOC found that the company had illegally fired U.S. workers in favor of Mexican workers with H-2A visas.

“In a broader sense, Scott’s bill gets at what has long troubled me about the Tea Party movement: It is fueled by populist anger, but it has been hijacked by plutocrats,” Milbank writes. “… They rally for tougher immigration laws, but then their guy in Washington helps corporations to fire U.S. workers and hire foreign nationals.”

In response to questioning from Milbank, Scott said of his bill, “We are at a point where Congress must look at programs and ask, ‘Is this absolutely necessary?’ ”

The University of Maryland’s Corey Shdaimah recently explained in a guest post for ACSblog, “Legal services for low-income clients are no luxury; they are often necessary to ensure basic survival.”

Funding cuts such as these always come at a time when such services are most needed. If we can shore up corporations and financial institutions, why can’t we shore up people, communities, and their faith in our legal system? In the U.S., access to justice without lawyers is largely a hollow promise.