For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 7, 2002
President Bush, Sen Lieberman Discuss Armies of Compassion
Remarks by the President and Senator Lieberman in Photo Opportunity After Meeting on Armies of Compassion
The Oval Office
THE PRESIDENT: I want to welcome Senator Lieberman and Senator Santorum and the delegation of U.S. senators from both parties here at the Oval Office, 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 insist 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.
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're taking a big step in that direction.
So Senator Lieberman, the lead sponsor, thank you for being here. Appreciate you coming.
SENATOR LIEBERMAN: 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 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 nonitemizers and -- Mr. Secretary, you correct me -- but I think something like 75 percent of taxpayers do not itemize.
SECRETARY O'NEILL: That's right.
SENATOR LIEBERMAN: 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 nonprofit 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 mezzuzah on the door, or if you praise God in your mission statement, and that's the way it ought to be. So this is a real step forward.
I 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. 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.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, thank you.
SENATOR LIEBERMAN: And I'm proud to be part of it. I thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, sir. Thank you all. See you a little later on.
END 2:10 P.M. EST