Evangelical leaders may be disappointed that many of the far-reaching provisions of last year's faith-based legislation passed by the U.S. House are gone from a compromise Senate version introduced February 7. But in the aftermath, they are waxing philosophical.
"Politics is the art of the possible, and HR-7 wasn't possible," says Rich Cizik, the National Association of Evangelicals' vice president for government affairs. "Does the good outweigh the bad? Probably."
While there may not be overwhelming enthusiasm for the Senate plan—the Charity Aid, Recovery, and Empowerment (CARE) Act—it has a better likelihood of passage. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) jointly introduced S-1924, which has a wide spectrum of cosponsors, from Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) to Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). "The bill aims to better harness the enormous potential of charitable organizations to help the federal government solve pressing social problems," Santorum says.
President Bush, who has made compassionate conservatism the center of his social agenda, says the bill will help faith-based groups treating drug addicts, aiding battered spouses, and rehabilitating gang members.
"The administration has done an intelligent job of what is politically possible and finding a consensus of what can be passed," says Barbara Elliott of the Center for Renewal, a Houston nonprofit that connects Christ-centered ministries with available resources.
Prospects for Passage
The Senate bill allows tax deductions of up to $400 (for individuals) or $800 (for couples) for taxpayers who do not itemize their claims. But it removes a proposal to expand "charitable choice" provisions of the 1996 welfare reform law. These provisions would have allowed churches and groups ...1