- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 19, 2001

Republican sponsors of President Bushs plan to expand the role of faith-based groups in helping the needy have enlisted former Democratic Sen. Harris Wofford to help win over Democratic support in the Senate.
At a news conference at the Capitol today, Mr. Wofford is expected to announce his support for the proposal, which would allow religious groups to compete for federal grants to provide services to the poor.
"Senator Wofford is a very respected figure within the party and has a lot of credibility," said Dan Gerstein, spokesman for Democratic Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, who has withheld his support for the charitable choice aspect of the plan.
Mr. Woffords appearance today with Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican and a chief sponsor of the legislation, is aimed at jump-starting the proposal in the Senate.
Because of the concerns of Mr. Lieberman and others about linking government and religion, the Senate bill so far lacks a provision to allow religious groups to compete for federal funds, a provision known as charitable choice, and instead focuses on expanding tax deductions for charitable donations.
Mr. Wofford has served as the head of AmeriCorps, a nationwide group promoting volunteerism that receives federal funding. Former President Clinton counts the program, founded in 1993, as one of his greatest achievements.
"He certainly has more experience than most people in making federal funds available to charities," said the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, of Mr. Wofford. "I think he has a lot to contribute."
Mr. Lynn has been one of the faith-based plans most outspoken opponents but has agreed to serve on a working group with Mr. Wofford "to seek common ground on the issue," according to Mr. Santorums office.
Mr. Wofford was selected as chairman of the working group by a Washington-based, conflict resolution think tank called Search for Common Ground. Santorum spokesman Robert Traynham said of Mr. Woffords involvement in the faith-based legislation, "It can do nothing but help."
A spokesman for Search for Common Ground, Gil Kulick, said Mr. Wofford still has considerable clout in Washington. He said the group also sought Mr. Woffords services because "we saw an appealing symmetry between Senator Santorum and the man he defeated."
Mr. Santorum defeated Mr. Wofford in 1994.
Mr. Wofford said in a statement, "Although Senator Santorum and I do not see eye-to-eye on many things, we both believe that people of good will, Democrats and Republicans alike, can and should find common ground on getting help to some of our fellow Americans in greatest need, by making greater use of the resources of this country's many faith-based and other community organizations."
"We believe this can be done in ways that fulfill the great purposes of our Constitution, as set forth in the Preamble and the First Amendment," Mr. Wofford said.
Other members of the faith-based working group include Aly Abuzaakouk, executive director of the American Muslim Council; former Philadelphia Mayor Wilson Goode; Will Marshall, director of the Washington-based Progressive Policy Institute; Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches; Richard Foltin, director of legislative affairs for the American Jewish Committee; Melanne Verveer, chairman of Vital Voice Global Partnership and former chief of staff to first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton; and Robert Woodson, president of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise.

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