Press Release

Ahead of Friday’s Funding Deadline, Welch Stresses the Importance of Supporting the Federal Public Defenders Budget 

Mar 20, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Peter Welch (D-Vt.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate’s only former Public Defender, urged appropriate funding for the Federal Public Defender program in the upcoming appropriations bills ahead of this Friday’s funding deadline for certain agencies. 

“I was a public defender—I have enormous respect for the work that you do in the judicial system, and I have enormous respect for the work public defenders do as well…I’m very distressed about what happened to the public defender budget last year—they got stiffed, and it is going to result in cuts unless that is corrected in the current appropriation, which my hope is that it will be,” said Senator Welch

Senator Welch questioned three current prosecutors about their experience working with public defenders in the courtroom, asking nominees to explain how they intend to maintain the vital role of federal defenders in the court system in the future. 

Watch the Senator’s full remarks here

Senator Welch, the Senate’s only former Public Defender, has voiced his strong opposition to proposed cuts to the federal defender budget, warning that cutting the budget for this critical program would threaten the constitutional right to an effective lawyer, as well as the integrity of the judicial system.  

This month, Senator Welch led every Senate Judiciary Democrat in sending a letter to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts urging the office to give appropriate consideration to the funding of the Federal Public Defender program in the Office’s upcoming budget request for Fiscal Year (FY) 2025. The letter comes as Federal Defenders face a budget shortfall in the FY24 budget cycle caused by the Administrative Office’s accounting decisions. 

In October, Senator Welch led 22 of his colleagues, including every Senate Judiciary Committee Democrat, in sending a letter to Senate Appropriations Committee leaders emphasizing the importance of bipartisan collaboration to safeguard our Federal Defenders’ resources. The Senators urged that adequate funding be provided for Defender Services in both chambers’ Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) funding bills. In a Judiciary Committee meeting the same month, Senator Welch stressed the importance of bipartisan collaboration to ensure that the federal public defender budget remains adequately funded.