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January 10, 2003 - Image 25

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-01-10

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Israel is likely to receive the lion's
share.
Washington sources say there will be
no serious discussion of the aid request
until after the expected military con-
frontation with Iraq.

Congress' Agenda

On the domestic front, too, the grow-
ing budget crisis will be the inescap-
able bottom line to almost every leg-
islative initiative that surfaces in the
Republican-controlled 108th
Congress, which officially convened
on Tuesday.
Liberal Jewish activists continue to
talk about new or expanded programs,
but the real fight will be to limit the
budgetary damage to existing ones.
The deepening budget crisis will
"dominate the social agenda," said
Rep. Ben Cardin, D-Md., a senior
member of the Jewish delegation in
Congress and an expert in tax and
budget issues.
The combination of a sluggish econ-
omy, soaring military costs and previ-
ous tax cuts will produce enormous
pressure on hard-pressed social pro-
grams that depend on government
funding, Cardin said, including Jewish
federation programs around the coun-
try.
Diana Aviv, vice president for public
policy for the United Jewish Com-
munities (UJC), agreed, adding that
the problem will be compounded by
budget emergencies in dozens of
states.
"In terms of federal funding, the
best we can expect is flat funding —
which, in effect, means cuts," she said.
'And the problem is worse because
state budgets are in dire straits. There
will be cuts there, as well, so the
impact on our agencies will be pro-
found."
The Bush administration and the
Republican congressional leadership
will start the session with a major push
for new tax cuts as the centerpiece of
their economic stimulus package. The
Democrats say that will just result in
more red ink and more pressure to cut
social programs. House Democrats
have offered their own $136 billion
tax cut package.
UJC, Aviv said, will explore the pos-
sibility of getting new tax breaks to
encourage charitable giving as part of
the expected tax package, something
that could help hard-pressed Jewish
social service agencies.
At the start of the session, Congress
will consider a 13-week extension of
unemployment benefits for some

u B'Shevat falls on
January 18th. Celebrate
the Jewish Arbor Day by
planting Trees in Israel.

800,000 Americans whose benefits ran
out in December after lawmakers
failed to act. Several Jewish groups
have actively supported the extension.
A long list of Jewish groups are hop-
ing this will be the year lawmakers
pass a long-delayed bill expanding
existing hate crimes laws. The return
to Republican control could make that
tougher, but Michael Lieberman,
counsel for the Anti-Defamation
League's Washington office, said the
GOP's desire to assert its support for
civil rights in the wake of the Trent
Lott controversy could generate new
support for the bill.
Groups concerned about the Jews
remaining in the former Soviet Union
will be watching as the administration
again tries to "graduate" Russia from
requirements of the Jackson-Vanik
Amendment, the 1974 law that ties
favorable trade arrangements to the
former Soviet Union's human rights
performance.
With the GOP firmly in control,
most observers expect an all-out
assault by anti-abortion forces. The
first skirmishes could come over legis-
lation to ban late-term abortions.
Liberal Jewish groups will be on the
barricades against new abortion
restrictions; the National Council of
Jewish Women (NCJW) will continue
fighting anti-choice judicial nominees,
who may now face an easier time win-
ning Senate confirmation.
Orthodox groups, while not pro-
abortion, have been wary of sweeping
legislative initiatives on the subject.

A

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JNF TREES

Faith-Based

Some of the biggest fireworks in the
108th Congress will take place along
church-state line. Jewish groups will
be on both sides. "Charitable choice"
— rules and programs that make it
easier for religious groups to get gov-
ernment money to provide health and
social services — will come up, most
dramatically in the effort to reautho-
rize the 1996 welfare reform law,
which contained the first charitable
choice provisions.
Republicans will try to expand those
provisions; Democrats will try to scale
them back. But the real action on the
faith-based front has shifted to the
executive branch.
Jewish groups have given across-the-
board support for the long-languishing
Workplace Religious Freedom Act,
which would make it easier for
employees to fulfill their religious obli-
gations — like Sabbath observance —
without risking their jobs. ❑

.101

1 Tree: $18.00
Ring of 5 Trees:
$90.00
Circle of 10 Trees:
$180.00

JNF will send
attractive tree
certificates to you
or someone you'd
like to honor, and
you'll be doing a
special and
time-honored
mitzvah!

www.jewishacorn
800-875-6621

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The store for the Jewish community online

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