Bishops' Conference Issues Legislative Agenda for 108th Congress
WASHINGTON (March 25, 2003) -- The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has identified more than one hundred legislative issues of concern in the 108th Congress. Nearly 30 of these are considered so significant and under serious consideration in Congress that the USCCB will devote all appropriate lobbying efforts, nationally and locally, to help enact or defeat the legislation.Radio Ownership Rules
The USCCB Legislative Agenda for the 108th Congress was prepared by the Office of Government Liaison in consultation with the USCCB offices, departments and committees that are responsible for the public policy of the Conference. It was approved March 18 by the Conference's Administrative Committee.
The purpose of this exercise was to identify issues of concern to the Catholic Bishops of the United States; to determine which of the USCCB legislative interests ought to be on the Congressional agenda; and to assess the level and intensity of activity which the USCCB staff should commit to influence Congressional action on these issues.
This process defines four categories of legislative issues which form the basis for setting a Conference-wide legislative program: Lobbying; Tracking/Lobbying; General Advocacy; and Monitoring.
The Lobbying category of the document contains "Substantively important issues addressed in legislation which is likely to be enacted by Congress. The USCCB expects to commit all appropriate lobbying efforts to amend, pass or defeat specific legislation. If
Congressional action is uncertain, the USCCB intends to commit the necessary resources at the 'grassroots' level to insure that Congress takes action." This category contains:
Support of legislation that would promote diversity in ownership of radio and television stations, newspapers and cable systems.
Support for provisions in the reauthorization of the 1996 welfare reform bill that help families leave welfare for meaningful work; strengthen marriage and family life; and sustain the needy, especially children and immigrants.
Support for an extension of the federal unemployment insurance (Temporary Emergency Unemployment Compensation) for those who lost their benefits at the end of 2002.
Support for legislation which would ensure a level playing field for faith-based and community-based groups, and new resources to serve the poor, while preserving the Title VII (Civil Rights) exemption for religious groups.
Advocate for federal budget priorities and tax policies that would protect programs which help the poor.
Proactively support legislation to provide tax credits for personal and corporate donations to organizations providing scholarships for children.
Support legislation to make permanent educational tax deductions, including Coverdell savings accounts.
Support an adequately funded student scholarship demonstration project of educational choice for parents, especially for those most in need.
Initiate a grass-root effort to proactively urge Congress to consider refundable tax credits/deductions for families with children in public, private, or religious elementary, secondary, and post-secondary schools to help pay for various educational expenses, including tuition.
Tax Policy Affecting Charitable Contributions
Support legislation to increase incentives for charitable giving.
International Debt Relief
Proactively promote legislation that will amend existing debt law to increase funding for the additional reduction of bilateral and multilateral debt for the world's most heavily indebted poor countries, most of which are in Africa.
Millennium Challenge Account
Support legislation for the creation of a major new development aid program.
(USCCB will likely work to amend and improve the Bush Administration's proposal so that aid is focused on poor countries, particularly in Africa.)
Support legislation to provide increased U.S. funding for morally appropriate efforts to treat and prevent infectious diseases abroad with a special focus on Africa, including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
Support legislation to provide increased funding of the regular Foreign
Operations budget for humanitarian assistance and sustainable development Programs.
Proactively support efforts in Congress to limit the use of force.
Proactively support legislation to fund humanitarian assistance and, if events warrant, post-conflict reconstruction to Iraq.
Support separate appropriations to fund asylum and refugee adjudications.
Support adequate funding for the Department of Health and Services Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to exercise its new responsibilities with respect to the care of unaccompanied alien children.
Detention of Aliens
Support efforts to reduce instances where aliens are held in detention by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through appropriations for alternatives to detention, ensure that any such appropriation of funds is used only for true alternatives to detention, and oppose increased DHS appropriations for detention.
Support efforts in Congress to ensure that Department of Homeland Security (DHS) border enforcement and personnel respect the human and civil rights of those they encounter, including efforts to mandate human rights training for such personnel.
Support adequate appropriations for the new Bureau of Citizenship and and Immigration Services to enable it to effectively process immigration benefit applications and petitions, as well as to eliminate current backlogs in such applications and petitions.
Support efforts in Congress to increase the number of refugees admitted into the United States, including increasing the number of admissions of both particularly vulnerable refugees and refugees who have been in protracted refugee situations for some time
Support adequate appropriations to support robust refugee admissions.
Support authorization of the Department of State's Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) account, including support for mechanisms that would better ensure the development of an adequate infrastructure for the identification of refugees for admission into the United States, the identification of particularly vulnerable refugee, and greater participation by United States nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in the admissions process.
Support adequate appropriations to assist refugees in countries of first asylum.
Refugees – Resettlement in the United States
Support adequate appropriations for the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to successfully assist in the early self-sufficiency of refugees in the United States.
Support reauthorization of funding for the ORR's programs.
Religious Worker Visas
Support enactment of legislation to extend permanently the Special Immigrant Non-minister Religious Worker Visa Program and make both the special immigrant and nonimmigrant nonminister religious worker visa programs more useful to religious denominations and to diocesan seminaries.
Initiate a "grass roots" effort to proactively urge Congress to modify the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 to make it more useful to religious denominations and to diocesan seminaries.
Support passage of a ban on partial-birth abortion and oppose weakening amendments.
Abortion Non-Discrimination Act
Support legislation to support health care providers from forced involvement in abortion.
Abortion Funding Bans
Maintain current appropriations riders that prevent federal support of abortion in health programs, military hospitals, District of Columbia, federal prisons and federal employees' health plans.