The House Judiciary Committee yesterday voted 22 to 6 to continue the program of free legal services to the poor that President Reagan wants to end.
The compromise bill, shaped to meet some of Reagan's objections, would maintain the Legal Services Corporation for two years -- but with a 25 percent budget cut -- at $260 million a year.
The corporation, whose members would be appointed by Reagan, would have increased authority to fire employes who get out of line. Some critics view Legal Services as being manned by a bunch of young activist lawyers trying to shake up City Hall. But it is backed by such establishment fixtures as the American Bar Association.
Reagan wants to bundle Legal Services into a block grant and turn it over to the states. Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) said that would assure its death because some states have been the targets of Legal Services' actions.
Rep. Robert W. Kastenmeier (D-Wis.), manager of the bill, said he thinks he can pass the House but he's getting mixed signals from the Senate. The Senate left room in its budget resolution for a $100 million program, but Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), who tried unsuccessfully to knock it out of the budget, is chairman of the Labor and Human Resources Committee, which will handle the Legal Services bill.
Hatch as refused twice this week to convene scheduled committee meetings to mark up bills like Legal Services that under the Budget Act should be reported out of committee by Friday.
Committee Democrats say Hatch is balking because he would be outvoted on Reagan's efforts to convert a long list of categorical grant programs to block grants, which give states broad discretion on how to spend the money.
The Legal Services bill could be brought out of the Senate committee later by a waiver approved by the Senate Budget Committee or could be offered as an amendment to another bill on the Senate floor.