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President, Sen. Lieberman Announce Progress on Faith-based Aid

Aired February 7, 2002 - 14:15   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I understand that we want to first show you some sound from President Bush. Let's go to that now.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... to herald a great accomplishment, which is an agreement to move a faith-based initiative out of the United States Senate.

All of us in this room share a priority, and it's this: that people who don't have hope can find hope. People who wonder about the American dream will realize the American experience is meant for them.

And one way to ensure that is to unleash these fantastic armies of compassion, which exist all across the country. And government ought to stand on their side in complete agreement that the government should not discriminate against faith-based programs, but it should encourage them to flourish.

And so, I welcome so very much the senators here to get this really important piece of legislation through.

This legislation will not only provide a way for government to encourage faith-based programs to exist without breaching the separation of church and state, it will also encourage charitable giving, as well. And we have an opportunity to capture the compassion of the country, focus it in the right direction.

And because of the senators here, we have taken a big step in that direction.

So, Senator Lieberman, as the co-sponsor, thank you for being here. Appreciate you coming.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: Thank you, Mr. President. Thanks for your leadership on this, and thanks to Senator Santorum and all our colleagues and our staffs that worked very hard on this.

I have always believed that faith, right from the beginning of this country, was one of the great unifiers of the American people, and that faith has been strong enough to unify all of us as we went forward to find a constitutionally appropriate way to have a faith- based initiative, to help people who want to do good works and whose desire to do good works is motivated by their faith.

This proposal really will matter to people. It creates some very important tax incentives for greater charitable giving, including saying to non-itemizers -- and, Mr. Secretary, you correct me, but I think something like 75 percent of taxpayers do not itemize. And it will give individuals an additional $400 deduction for charitable giving and couples an additional $800. That's a lot stronger, with all respect, than the comparable House bill, and I think it really will motivate more charitable giving. There are other tax incentives, as well.

We also have an agreement to increase funding for a group of social service programs, including, particularly, the social service block grant program, which is very important to our states and very important to a lot of non-profit organizations, including faith-based organizations that now use it to do good works.

We have also here -- and I mention this is constitutionally appropriate -- but we have responded here, in this proposal, to the evidence presented by your faith-based office, John DiIulio, last summer, I believe, and the study that showed that there was some sense of not fair play totally toward faith-based groups as they applied for government funding.

And this says that, if you qualify otherwise, you can't be discriminated against in applying for a grant to do social service work if you have a cross on the wall or a mezuza on the door of if you praise God in your mission statement. And that's the way it ought to be.

So this is a real step forward. Remember when we stood together last year over in Anacostia on the day you announced your desire to have this faith-based initiative, I was proud to support you.

And I said then, because we were talking in general terms, that the devil -- if I may use that term advisedly...

(LAUGHTER)

... would be in the details. Along the way, Congress, being what it is, turned out to be quite devilish. But in the end here today, I think we've put the good Lord right into the details.

BUSH: We have. Thank you.

LIEBERMAN: And I'm proud to be part of it. I thank you.

BUSH: Thank you all. I'll see you a little later on.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Instead of the devil being in the details here, you heard Sen. Joseph Lieberman saying they've put God in the details here, the Good Lord in the details here. What we were listening to was a tape that just came in to us here. You see the President Bush was meeting with Sen. Lieberman. You also heard that Sen. Rick Santorum was also part of this delegation to the White House to commemorate this agreement that's been reached between the Senate and the White House on coming up with some way to cooperate on faith- based groups getting government funds. And the big issue whether or not there it was constitutionally appropriate to do so, the way it has been proposed in the past, and they think now that they have worked that out and it will go back into the process before it gets finalized.

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