Bush Applauds Congressional Introduction Of Faith-Based Bill

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:27pm EDT

(CNSNews.com) - President Bush Wednesday applauded a bipartisan bill that was introduced in both the House and the Senate on his faith-based funding initiative. Bush believes the initiatives will encourage charitable giving and break down barriers to charitable works in America.

"Government does not have a monopoly on compassion. And while government cannot be replaced by charities, it should welcome them as partners, not view them as rivals. Today, on a bipartisan basis, members of the House and Senate took important first steps to advance this agenda to aid churches, synagogues, mosques, and communities in helping neighbors in need," the President said in a statement released by the White House.

The bills were introduced in the House by Reps. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.) and Tony Hall (D-Ohio) and by Sens. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) in the Senate.

"These new legislative initiatives demonstrate that momentum continues to build behind my agenda to rally America's armies of compassion. They represent a bipartisan consensus that government must support our quiet heroes who are lifting lives and healing neighborhoods one heart and one act of kindness at a time. I will continue to work in a bipartisan fashion with Congress to help those most in need by encouraging charitable giving and eliminating barriers to charitable works," the President said.

The House bill would expand charitable choice, allowing religious groups to compete for government money to perform various social services. The charitable choice provision is controversial, even among some conservatives, who fear it will allow the government to intrude on religious mandates. The Senate bill omits the charitable choice provision altogether.

The House bill contains a provision calling for "individual development accounts"(IDA). The IDA's will "target low-income Americans in order to help then build assets and nest eggs. The IDA's are a way of helping low-income Americans by involving the community and business in the effort to strengthen communities," according to Watts.

To qualify, an individual or family would contract with a local bank, credit union or community group to start an account. A qualified individual's income cannot exceed $20,000 (single), $25,000 (head of household) or $40,000 (married). The institutions would then match up to $500 of an individual's deposit. The individuals could also use their accounts for such things as home financing, paying for education, saving for retirement or starting a small business.

"Faith-based and community groups have been quietly feeding the hungry and clothing the poor for years. We ought to promote the good work they do and empower them with resources to reach out to those who need their help. Charitable giving should be promoted to the fullest extent possible. This bill allows all Americans, regardless of which IRS forms they happen to use, to claim a charitable deduction come tax time. This will further encourage charitable giving and provide more resources for groups to help the needy," Watts said.

The bill will be examined by House committees before seeing floor action. Sources tell CNSNews.com, that the Watts-Hall bill could see House floor action sometime this summer.

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