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Democrats Don’T Care
Playing politics with the needy.


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Rick Santorum

As the holidays begin to approach, charities around the country are preparing to serve more and more hungry people and others in need against the backdrop of a two-year decline in charitable giving that continues to eat away at their resources. Two years ago, President George W. Bush promised to help them meet the nation’s growing social-services needs.

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Congress is poised to respond after a painstaking two-year process to pass bipartisan legislation that addresses the charitable crisis. This action is something Congress can finish this fall as a shot in the arm to faith-based and community charities before the holiday season. But now, regrettably, Senate Democratic leaders are playing politics and blocking final action on the charity bill.

The bipartisan CARE Act (Charity Aid, Recovery and Empowerment Act of 2003), passed overwhelmingly in the Senate and a similar version in the House, provides billions of dollars in charitable-giving incentives to help those in need. Nearly two years ago, in February 2002, then Majority Leader Tom Daschle said, “I look forward to working with President Bush to get this proposal signed into law.”

Today Minority Leader Daschle is standing in the way of a CARE Act conference committee, the normal procedure to resolve final differences in the House and Senate versions, without any substantive objection. His reason: Democrats aren’t being treated fairly in conference committees, so he plans to block them, with CARE as his first target.

Senator Daschle is drawing the wrong line in the sand. This legislation is an immediate way to help those who lack critical social services. Democratic leaders have said repeatedly this term that they want to help Americans who need assistance. They know that this bill is bipartisan, and they support all the provisions in it.

Regarding their fears of ill-treatment, I have personally given the Democrats assurances that they will be given full participation in this conference. Furthermore, we made a deal earlier this year that if House Republicans did not include the so-called “charitable choice” faith-based provision in the House bill, Democrats would help facilitate a CARE conference. Are deals made to be broken?

There are people all around the country waiting to give more to charity–they just need a little push. The CARE Act gives that in the form of a series of targeted tax incentives. The bill provides $2 billion in food-donation incentives that would allow farmers, restaurants and corporations to give more of their surplus food to local food banks and soup kitchens. America’s Second Harvest estimates this provision translates into an additional 878 million meals for the hungry over the next ten years.

In addition, the CARE Act removes the tax penalties that are preventing big-dollar donors from rolling over their IRA account funds to assist a wide range of charities, including foundations, colleges and universities. If this bill passes, wealthy individuals will be able to give 30 percent more in tax-free IRA contributions than would otherwise be possible.

The bill also gives disadvantaged people the same opportunity as those of us who have IRAs to build assets to purchase a home, go to school or start a small business by creating matched saving accounts called individual development accounts (IDAs). If passed, this provision would help 300,000 low-income people open IDAs.

Another provision, popular with many Democrats and Republicans, would add more than $1.2 billion to the Social Services Block Grant, which helps keep states’ social services programs running. The bill would restore SSBG funding to the level ensured as part of a 1996 agreement. Although House conferees may push for reduced SSBG funding, Senate conferees will fight hard for this increase to help states at a time of financial stress.

Finally, important issues outside the charity bill can be resolved in the CARE conference, as the only tax-related conference this fall. Key add-ons include tax extenders like the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which allows employers to hire people off welfare and needs to be renewed before the end of the year, as well as Military Tax Fairness and the Refundable Child Tax Credit, again, all measures the Democrats want to see pass.

The question is: Do Democratic leaders care enough to stop their partisan obstruction and allow a conference? Their obstruction is not hurting President Bush, it’s hurting those who desperately need our help.

Rick Santorum is a Republican senator from Pennsylvania and chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.



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