December 26, 2002 - Washington Post: Bush's Peace Corps agenda lags behind
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December 26, 2002 - Washington Post: Bush's Peace Corps agenda lags behind
Bush's Peace Corps agenda lags behind
Caption: President Bush meets with Tassi-Ann Savage, 18, a member of Americorps, and Joslyn Montanez, 11, at the South End Community Center in Bridgeport, Conn., in April.
Read and comment on this story from the Washington Post on the status of President Bush's compassionate agenda including his proposal to double the size of the Peace Corps. “I’ve seen no push for legislation from the White House,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who sought Bush’s help with national service legislation. After an early expression of support, “we never heard from them again,” he said, adding that he would use parliamentary tactics to pass the bill.
Aides say Bush will redouble efforts to enact his compassionate agenda, and now he will have the leadership of one of his closest allies on these issues, incoming Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). Aides expect Congress will enact Bush policies next year on national service, welfare and disabilities. Larger proposals — expanding AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps — still await action. Bush opted not to challenge House Republicans who opposed the AmeriCorps in the last session of Congress.
We reported last year that the White House supported Senator Dodd's Peace Corps bill which passed the Senate by unanimous consent on October 16. However the bill stalled in the House of Representatives without passing. We call on the administration to push for passage of the Dodd Peace Corps bill in this session of Congress. RPCVs will regroup and begin lobbying for Peace Corps legislation early in 2003 once the congressional agenda becomes clearer. Read the story at:
Bush’s compassionate agenda lags*
* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.
Bush’s compassionate agenda lags
President’s legislative record for disadvantaged wanting
By Dana Milbank
THE WASHINGTON POST
Dec. 26 - Two years after winning the White House on a platform of "compassionate conservatism," President Bush so far has achieved few of the items on his legislative agenda to help the disadvantaged, even as he has notched a string of victories on foreign, security and fiscal policy.
EARLIER THIS month, as Bush announced that the AmeriCorps volunteer program was "expanding mightily," the program disclosed that it had halted enrollment; his proposed expansion of national service has not cleared Congress. That same week, the White House acknowledged that it was unlikely to free from congressional gridlock Bush’s "faith-based initiative" to help charities, instead enforcing a limited version of it through executive orders.
Meanwhile, action on major welfare, prescription drug and disabilities legislation was postponed. Proposals to liberalize immigration were dropped, a plan for health-care tax credits was not pursued, and efforts to expand low-income housing are yet to see the funding Bush sought.
The one major success on the compassion list - education legislation - has become the subject of a budget fight, with Bush proposing only $22 billion of the $28 billion the new law authorized for the current year.
Many reasons for the delays are outside the administration’s control. Last year’s terrorist attacks put on hold much of the domestic agenda, and Senate Democrats have blocked pieces of Bush’s compassion agenda. But several lawmakers and current and former advisers say the Bush White House has not pushed its compassion agenda with the energy and determination that it put behind tax cuts, defense spending and other priorities.
‘HARDLY A HINT OF THE COMPASSIONATE’
‘The compassionates win a lot of rhetorical battles, but when you look where the budget is, it shows hardly a hint of the compassionate.’ - ROBERT PUTNAM, Harvard University
"He has always been rhetorically on the right side of the issue," said Harvard University’s Robert Putnam, who has been consulted often by Bush aides. "They have not yet done nearly enough in practical terms to match the rhetoric." Putnam said right-wing conservatives trumped compassion-minded aides. "The compassionates win a lot of rhetorical battles," he said, "but when you look where the budget is, it shows hardly a hint of the compassionate."
Marvin Olasky, a conservative academic whose writings helped Bush form his views, said the president has expertly used his appearances to stir public compassion, but without victory in Congress. "I give them an ‘A’ in terms of President Bush’s personal effort in setting the message, and an ‘F’ in terms of legislation at this point," he said, adding that he gives Bush top marks for regulatory changes.
White House officials say such criticism misses the point. Though many of the legislative items on Bush’s compassion agenda stalled in the last Congress, Bush aides point out that he has done much with the bully pulpit - his stirring denunciation of Sen. Trent Lott’s racially tinged remarks was a powerful example of Bush’s inclusive rhetoric - and by making administrative changes. "If you look at what’s been enacted, what’s been achieved administratively, I think we’re 80-plus percent there," said John Bridgeland, a Bush domestic policy adviser.
President Bush meets with Tassi-Ann Savage, 18, a member of Americorps, and Joslyn Montanez, 11, at the South End Community Center in Bridgeport, Conn., in April.
Aides say Bush will redouble efforts to enact his compassion agenda, and now he will have the leadership of one of his closest allies on these issues, incoming Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). Aides expect Congress will enact Bush policies next year on national service, welfare and disabilities. In his State of the Union address, aides said, he plans to propose a major mentoring initiative for low-income children and hundreds of millions of dollars for a new drug treatment program.
"The president went out and made education one of the top priorities, and he pushed and he pushed, and we were able to get a bill," said Jay Lefkowitz, head of Bush’s Domestic Policy Council. "I think we’re going to see some of that same kind of effort in some of the key and critical domestic policy areas in the coming year."
NO WHITE HOUSE PUSH
‘"I’ve seen no push for legislation from the White House," said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who sought Bush’s help with national service legislation.
Undoubtedly, congressional gridlock has made Bush’s job more difficult. Still, the president demonstrated - on everything from tax cuts to homeland security - that Congress would bend to his will. And Bush, busy with economic and anti-terrorism policy, did not put much of his compassion agenda at the top of the legislative list.
"I’ve seen no push for legislation from the White House," said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who sought Bush’s help with national service legislation. After an early expression of support, "we never heard from them again," he said, adding that he would use parliamentary tactics to pass the bill.
Steve Goldsmith, who coordinated the Bush campaign’s domestic policy agenda, listed six policy areas of compassionate conservatism in an April 2000 speech to the Hoover Institution. Of the six - retirement accounts, home ownership, education, refundable health -are tax credits, prescription drug benefits for the elderly and support for religious charities - only one has seen a true legislative victory.
But that ignores progress on several items, Bush aides say. "We’re on the 10-yard line," said Margaret Spellings, Bush’s top domestic policy adviser.
The core of Bush’s compassionate conservatism is his "Armies of Compassion" proposal to boost religious and community service organizations. Bush, as he promised, has established a "faith-based" office in the White House and a "Compassion Capital Fund" to help religious groups access government funds.
But the centerpiece of Bush’s effort plan, a 10-year, $90 billion plan to increase charitable donations by giving deductions to those who do not itemize tax returns, was cut to $6 billion by the House in agreement with the White House, and never passed the Senate. And charities complain that repeal of the estate tax will deprive them of billions of dollars.
"They talked a really good game but in the end the compassionate part of compassionate conservatism got omitted from the final calculation," said Harvard’s Putnam.
The "charitable choice" component of Bush’s proposal, which would ease restrictions on religious charities receiving government money, became embroiled in controversy when the White House and House Republicans included provisions that would allow religious charities to avoid laws against hiring discrimination. The bill "bore few marks of ‘compassionate conservatism,’ " John J. DiIulio Jr., the former head of Bush’s "faith-based" office, said in the current issue of Esquire magazine.
Bush’s recent executive orders eased restrictions on religious groups but did not attempt to extend "charitable choice" through the government.
EXPANDING PEACE CORPS AND AMERICORPS
Peace Corps Director Gaddi Vasquez at last year's Senate Hearings on the new Peace Corps legislation. After an initial reluctance to support Senator Dodd's Peace Corps initiatives, the administration threw their support behind a compromise bill to expand the Peace Corps and the bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent on October 16.
Larger proposals - expanding AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps - still await action.
As with the "faith-based" initiative, action on Bush’s national service initiative has been limited to executive action. He created the USA Freedom Corps to oversee the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps volunteer programs. The new entity, in turn, created a clearinghouse of volunteer service opportunities and a survey to monitor volunteerism.
But the White House has for now dropped earlier notions to enhance the Freedom Corps by using tax credits or a major scholarship program to boost volunteerism. Larger proposals - expanding AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps - still await action. Bush this year opted not to challenge House Republicans who oppose the AmeriCorps. A number of experts say Bush missed a chance to channel the outpouring of patriotism following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks into a broad volunteer effort for homeland security. "What was new and cutting edge disappeared," said Amitai Etzioni of George Washington University.
Bridgeland, who runs Bush’s USA Freedom Corps, predicted victory for the legislation in the new Congress. "We’re poised to move this," he said, noting that it typically takes 18 months to get legislation passed.
In a variety of related areas, Bush has made generous requests for funding to fulfill the components of his compassionate conservative agenda. But relatively few of the requests for funding and legislation have been accepted. Failure to complete fiscal 2003 spending bills has delayed Bush’s requests for housing programs, drug treatment, child nutrition, help for prisoners’ children and foreign aid.
Some smaller items on the compassion agenda have become law. Though Bush has not yet won action encouraging charitable contributions from corporations and IRAs, and he has not pushed his plan to seek state tax credits for anti-poverty donations, he won a permanent extension and increase in the adoption tax credit.
In some areas where legislation has foundered, Bush has taken unilateral action, proceeding with an administrative restructuring of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and implementation of a Supreme Court decision broadening rights of the disabled.
In other areas, the White House backed away from some bold ideas. After sending signals that it would expand guest-worker programs that would allow more immigrants to earn legal status, for example, the administration quietly dropped the idea after the terrorist attacks.
Also, some legislation has not yet turned out as advertised. When Congress passed a measure pledging more funds for nursing training, Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao said, "the Bush administration has issued what I call a ‘call to care.’ " But the funds are not in the spending bills. The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, which lobbied for the legislation, said that for now, "it’s all just rhetoric."
© 2002 The Washington Post Company
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