Beliefnet
Washington--Two key senators are hoping to revive President Bush's stalled "faith-based initiative" when Congress returns to Washington at the end of January. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., both say compromise will be needed to forge an agreement between Congress and the White House to increase aid to religious groups that provide social services.

Last July, the House passed the Bush plan, which would allow religious groups to compete for government funds and expand charitable giving tax incentives. Senate Democrats have shelved the plan, concerned that private groups would be able to discriminate with federal funds in hiring and providing services.

Santorum and Lieberman hoped to include a scaled-back version of the plan in the $100 billion economic stimulus package, which died in the Senate in late December. "We're back to square one," said Santorum spokesman Robert Traynham. "We're certainly going to work in a bipartisan fashion to try to press Mr. (Majority Leader Tom) Daschle for a date sooner rather than later."

Both Santorum and Lieberman welcomed Tuesday's (Jan. 15) report by an independent group that found 29 areas of "common ground" on expanding the role of faith-based groups. The report brought together liberals, conservatives and moderates to map out a blueprint on areas of agreement. "They've shown it's possible for individuals and groups on different sides of the issues to put aside their suspicions and skepticisms and listen to one another and try to find some areas of agreement," said Lieberman spokesman Dan Gerstein.

Gerstein conceded he "doesn't know what happens next." He said Republicans must drop provisions that allow religious groups to skirt local anti-discrimination laws, and the White House needs to offer concessions as well. Gerstein said it's "hard to say" whether a Senate vote on the measure will be held this year. Calls to the White House were not immediately returned.

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