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The Bush Presidency: Bush Announces Program to Provide Tax Funds for Charitable Religious Groups, Places Cheney in Charge of Energy Task Force

Aired January 29, 2001 - 2:13 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: In Washington today, President Bush announced a new federal program today, one that was a foundation of his campaign: tax money for religious groups that help the needy. That is raising a host of questions about entangling state and religion.

CNN's John King joins us from the White House now -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joie, that's right, it was a signature issue of the Bush campaign, and it will now become one of the early fights of the Bush administration, already critics say this program violates the separation of church and state. They say that under no circumstances should federal money be given to religious institutions, whether they be church-based organizations, synagogues, mosques, but Mr. Bush making his case today, bringing here to the White House representatives of some 20 faith-based organizations. Mr. Bush saying that he believes these organizations and other nonprofit organizations not affiliated with religious institutions can do a much better job than the government of providing services like alcohol or drug counseling, like providing shelter to the homeless or food to hungry.

Mr. Bush making his case today, saying he will send up the details tomorrow to Congress -- during the campaign, he talked of about 24 billion over 10 years, some of that direct federal grants to agencies, others tax incentives to encourage giving to charitable, including faith-based, organizations, Mr. Bush making the case today that you can do this and still say -- and still stay, excuse me, on the other side of the line separating church and state.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yet when we see social needs in America, my administration will look first at faith- based programs and community groups, which have proven their power to save and change lives. We will not fund the religious activities of any group, but when people of faith provide social services, we will not discriminate against them. As long as there are secular alternatives, faith-based charities should be able to compete for funding on equal basis and in a manner that does not cause them to sacrifice their mission.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, that announcement in keeping with the key Bush campaign promise. Of course, presidents also have to deal with surprises. Also on the agenda here at the White House today a meeting on energy issues, the president announcing he has put Vice President Cheney in charge of a new administration task force. The goals are these: one, take a short-term look at the California power crisis and the energy issues throughout the West, see if anything else can be done, although the administration's view is that California created this problem and that California is largely on own to fix it.

And we're told this commission will also take a longer view, Mr. Bush making the case today that supply outstripping demand right now and that the administration needs to take comprehensive look at U.S. energy policy. During the campaign, of course, Mr. Bush promised more domestic oil exploration -- also one controversial matter: some drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuse -- Joie.

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