[Hpn] Faith-based plan hits roadblocks;Washington Times;6/22/01;Washington, DC

Morgan W. Brown morganbrown@hotmail.com
Fri, 22 Jun 2001 18:33:48 -0400


-------Forwarded article-------

Friday, June 22, 2001
The Washington Times <http://www.washtimes.com>
[Washington, D.C.]
Faith-based plan hits roadblocks

Audrey Hudson

President Bushīs faith-based initiative stalled in the House yesterday amid 
legal questions and lack of bipartisan support, jeopardizing hopes for the 
targeted Fourth of July passage.

Republicans say they want to ensure the legislation is "constitutionally 
airtight" but are also concerned about questionable
provisions that could push final passage into autumn.

The House Ways and Means Committee yesterday postponed passage "until 
further notice" and Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. 
is bucking White House pressure for fast action.

Vice President Richard B. Cheney last week called Mr. Sensenbrenner, 
Wisconsin Republican, and asked for prompt action on the bill.

"I told him there were legal problems involved and I didnīt think the 
administration had done its homework in broadening its base so that it had 
broad bipartisan support," Mr. Sensenbrenner told the Milwaukee Journal 

"Itīs basically up to the administration to get it together if they want it 
passed," Mr. Sensenbrenner said.

As written, the bill opens up the possibility of lawsuits against cities and 
states that contract with the religious organization for
services. In theory, this could permit an atheist to sue if rejected for a 
job by the Catholic Church, Mr. Sensenbrenner said.

Rep. J.C. Watts Jr., Oklahoma Republican and chairman of the party 
conference, dismissed the delay as "inside-the-Beltway politics."

Mr. Watts said he is "cautiously optimistic" they will proceed with the bill 
next week, "but itīs more likely it will happen in the
fall than the Fourth of July."

"Theyīre just [sending] it back and forth making sure everything is 
constitutionally sound," Mr. Watts said.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert said he hopes the bill will pass next week, 
but most Republicans are skeptical it will move before the holiday recess 
begins June 29.

Jeff Lungren, Judiciary Committee spokesman, said "theoretically" the bill 
could pass early next week, but that his panel has not scheduled a meeting.

"We just want to make sure we get the broadest amount of support on this," 
Mr. Lungren said.

Mr. Watts said the Judiciary Committee members are "kidding themselves" by 
holding out for more Democratic support.

     "The Judiciary Committee is stacked, you canīt be any farther apart on 
ideology than the Democrats and Republicans on
that committee," Mr. Watts said.

But with Democrats in control of the Senate, House Republicans say 
endorsements from Democrats is essential. The only Democrat publicly 
supporting the bill is Rep. Tony P. Hall of Ohio.

"Republicans plus one Tony Hall doesnīt help our prospects in the Senate," 
said one House leadership aide.

"This is a priority for the White House and leadership. No one benefits from 
rushing in and turning this into a partisan
bloodbath. We will work to find agreements where we can," the aide said.

Mr. Watts said he is open to negotiations on technical aspects of the bill, 
"but Iīm not going to compromise on principles in the bill."

A few additional Democrats are expected to come on board, but Mr. Watts, the 
billīs sponsor, said there will not be a flood of support.

"Iīm not naive enough to think we will get 80 Democrats on this bill. Their 
coalition will not allow them to support it," Mr. Watts said.

Asked to describe Democratic support, Mr. Watts said, "very little warmth, 
more lukewarm than warm."

There is also concern that the bill contains unfunded mandates on states, 
possible loosening of child safety measures, and poses problems on the 
matter of employment discrimination, said Barry Lynn, executive director of 
Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

"These are not exactly issues Republicans want to wade into," Mr. Lynn said.

For example, the bill requires that a state or city provide a secular 
alternative when it contracts a service out to a religious
group. But the bill provides no money for those secular alternatives.

Mr. Lynn is the most outspoken opponent of the bill, which allows religious 
groups to compete for federal grants and provide services to the poor. 
However, he serves on a bipartisan working group that is advancing the 

The bipartisan working group created by Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania 
Republican, is led by former Sen. Harris Wofford, Pennsylvania Democrat, to 
find common ground on the issues.


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Morgan <morganbrown@hotmail.com>
Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA

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