Bush’s Faith Based Initiative Rejected – Less Controversial Version of Aid Passed by Senate

Apr 10, 2003 05:15 PM EDT

WASHINGTON – Two years after the “Faith Based Initiative” was proposed by Bush, the senate passed a less extreme version of the bill, expanding tax breaks for social-religious service groups, April 9.

Since its proposal, Bush’s Faith Based Initiative stumbled across many opponents; Democrats in the Senate had immediately threatened to block any effort to pass the proposal which would help religious charities qualify for more federal grants. They argued that the proposals could upset the tradition of separation of church and state.

"Once you have opened this door and start talking about federal dollars given to religion for social services, you open up a can of worms," said Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill.

Sen. Durbin, on Wednesday agreed with Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., a strong sponsor of the Bush faith-based initiative, to pass the bill, given the scope of its implications are limited. Therefore, the senate signaled a Republican retreat on bill on a 95-5 vote.

Santorum said he agreed to compromise because charities were in urgent need of help and the President’s bill – proposed in January 2001 – had languished since then without a Senate vote. Santorum pledged a renewed push for the rest of the Bush initiative when the Senate debates welfare reform.

He added that many of the charitable donations that could be spurred by the bill would go toward religious groups -- in essence, achieving what Bush has wanted all along.

Bush applauded the action, saying, "This legislation contains key elements of the faith-based initiative that I proposed more than two years ago to encourage more charitable giving and rally the armies of compassion that exist in communities all across America," he said.

The bill would call for a raise for social service grants by more than $1.3 billion through 2004. The Republican-led House, which in 2001 passed a version of the faith-based initiative that closely tracked Bush's goals, has not passed a similar bill this year.

Supporters to the initiative says the approved bill aims to help charities through new tax breaks, supporters said.

By Pauline J.