Senate may not pass "faith-based" bill, but Watts says he won't oppose it
U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.), who retires this year but has left the door open for a return to Congress, has long been protective of H.R. 7, the faith-based initiative bill passed by the House July 19. As the Senate watered down its version of the bill to the point of near unrecognizability, Watts said he wanted the differences between the two bills worked out in a conference committee.
He has given up such hopes. "Half a loaf is better than going hungry," he said earlier this week. "It has been such a long time since the House passed our version of the faith-based initiative. Underserved communities shouldn't have to wait any longer."
This means that the Charitable Choice Act of 2001 is dead. The House bill's main point — indeed, the main point of Bush's faith-based initiative — was allowing churches and religious organizations to compete for government social service grants. The Senate bill currently contains only the most uncontroversial measures — mainly tax incentives for giving to charitable organizations. The Democrat-led Senate seems to be sitting on it simply to spite President Bush. As Dan Gerstein, spokesman for bill cosponsor Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), told the Associated Press, "Our bill does not change the status quo one bit."
But the bill still may become controversial. Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), plans to introduce amendments that would, among other things, prohibit a government-funded group from "discriminating" against those potential employees who wouldn't want to adhere to the organization's statement of faith. Lieberman and his cosponsor, Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), "say that they will not bring the bill to the Senate floor unless they ...1