Background: The CARE Act is among the items the Senate left unfinished when they departed Washington for a pre-election break. But we continue to work for Senate passage of the Charity Aid, Recovery and Empowerment (CARE) Act (S. 1924), a bipartisan bill sponsored by Senators Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and Rick Santorum (R-PA). The CARE Act seeks to provide crucial resources to the faith-based and secular charities that serve our needy brothers and sisters, through provisions that include: Tax-code changes to allow non-itemizers to take a tax deduction for a portion of their charitable contributions (a proposal long supported by the Conference); and significant additional resources for the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) program and the Second Chance/Maternity Group Homes to enable religious and secular charities to provide needed social services. The USCCB and Catholic Charities USA have endorsed the CARE Act (see joint letters on our website at www.usccb.org/sdwp).
The co-sponsors have been working with Senate leadership to bring the CARE Act to the floor, and they are close to reaching an agreement that would allow the Senate to vote on the bill when they return after the November election. However, it is likely that several amendments will be offered when the CARE Act comes to the floor, including several related to charitable choice, an issue outside the scope of the CARE Act. Senators Santorum and Lieberman intentionally crafted the CARE Act to provide needed assistance to charities while remaining silent on charitable choice, so that a potentially contentious debate over issues related to charitable choice would not be allowed to stop aid to charities that help Americans in need.
Action Requested: The Senate will not reconvene in Washington until November 12. Please contact your Senators while they are in their home states. We are concerned that any additional amendments to the CARE Act could jeopardize final passage. On October 18, the USCCB and Catholic Charities USA wrote to all Senators, urging them to vote against all amendments offered when the CARE Act comes to the Senate floor.
Contact your Senators and reinforce that message: Let them know you want the Senate to pass the CARE Act this year, with no further amendments.
CARE Act cosponsors: Allard (CO), Bayh (IN), Bennett (UT), Bond, (MO) Brownback (KS), Carnahan (MO), Cleland (GA), Clinton (NY), Cochran (MS), Crapo (ID), DeWine (OH), Domenici (NM), Frist (TN), Hagel (NE), Hatch (UT), Hutchinson, T (AR), Hutchison, K (TX), Johnson (SD), Landrieu (LA), Lieberman (CT), Lugar (IN), Miller (GA), Nelson (FL), Santorum (PA), Sessions (AL), G. Smith (OR), Torricelli (NJ), Warner (VA)
Our Position: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops supports President Bush"s Faith-Based and Community Initiatives proposal and legislation to support faith-based and community organizations because we believe they will put new tools in the hands of those struggling daily to overcome the most difficult problems in our neighborhoods and communities: persistent poverty, violence, substance abuse, inadequate housing, and obstacles faced by those who are entering the job market. Faith-based groups should be allowed to participate in federally-funded programs to meet social needs on the same terms as other groups, without changing their fundamental nature or facing discrimination because of their religious identity. See Economic Justice For All, November, 1986; Moral Principles and Policy Priorities for Welfare Reform, March, 1995; and letters from USCCB, including joint letters with Catholic Charities USA dated February 26, 2002 and June 5, 2002.
For more information, contact Kathy Curran at 202-541-3188, firstname.lastname@example.org.
October 18, 2002
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
It is our understanding the "Charity Aid, Recovery and Empowerment Act of 2002" (S. 1924, the CARE Act) may be brought to the floor for a vote before the end of the 107th Congress. We are writing to urge you to support passage of the CARE Act, with no amendments. We believe further amendments to the Act could jeopardize final passage.
The Catholic community is a strong supporter of the CARE Act. We see this bipartisan bill as an important step in strengthening the partnership between the federal government and community- based and faith-based organizations, by targeting new public and private resources for the struggle to overcome poverty through, for example, provisions that will allow non itemizers to claim charitable deductions on their taxes to spur additional private giving and restore full funding for the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) program.
We are grateful to Senator Rick Santorum and Senator Joe Lieberman for their leadership on the CARE Act, which has support across the political spectrum. This is evidenced by its twenty-eight bipartisan co-sponsors, and the support of Senators Tom Daschle and Trent Lott and over 1,600 secular and religious organizations, charities, service providers and philanthropies across the nation.
It appears that several amendments may be offered when the CARE Act comes to the floor, including several related to charitable choice, an issue outside the scope of the CARE Act. Senators Santorum and Lieberman intentionally crafted the CARE Act to provide needed assistance to charities while remaining silent on charitable choice, so that a potentially contentious debate over issues related to charitable choice would not be allowed to stop aid to charities that help Americans in need.
We agree that old ideological battles should not stand in the way of this modest, but vital, effort to provide more resources to the faith-based and secular charities on the front lines of the struggle against poverty and despair. In the interest of getting more help to "the least among us," we urge you to commit to vote against all amendments offered when the CARE Act comes to the Senate floor.
Theodore Cardinal McCarrick
Archbishop of Washington
Chairman, Domestic Policy Committee
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Reverend J. Bryan Hehir
Catholic Charities USA