Faith-based bill holdup, part 421
Political wrangling has held up Bush's faith-based initiative in Congress for years. As the bill was stripped down, and one of its main points (leveling the playing field and allowing religious organizations to compete for government social service contracts without compromising their religious identity) was abandoned, many conservatives urged support. "Half a loaf is better than none," they said (several slices ago). Finally, this year, both the House and Senate passed nearly identical bills that, while not doing much about government grants, would encourage greater individual giving to charity.

"These provisions will have a very positive effect, so loud huzzahs!" said Stanley Carlson-Thies, fellow at the Center for Public Justice. "The faith-based initiative has always been about increasing private support for charities. But it has never been only about increasing private support."

Hold those huzzahs. The bills are nearly identical, but not fully so. The Senate bill has several riders attached, including tax breaks for Alaskan whaling captains and people who sell land for conservation purposes, and a tax exemption for blood-collecting organizations. The Washington Times today says that "at least 34 groups, including Americans for Tax Reform, the American Conservative Union and the American Association of Christian Schools" are complaining about the riders, saying they favor conservation organizations over faith-based social services.

Settling such differences in bills are usually the work of a conference committee, but Minority Whip Harry Reid (D-Nv.), is refusing to let the bill go to the committee. "Conferences haven't worked very well in this Congress," he said Friday.

If this were a real ...

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