Christian Groups Give Mixed Reactions to Stimulus Bill

As Congress scrambles to hammer out the stimulus bills before President Obama's deadline – President's Day – a few Christian organizations have offered opinions on the massive economic recovery plan.

Family Research Council, a conservative public policy group, criticized the $789 billion Senate economic stimulus bill for creating a bigger government rather than a "better government" through permanent tax cuts that "drive business competitiveness, relieve families, and promote personal investment."

"When President Obama first talked of a 'stimulus' he insisted it be a bipartisan plan to create jobs. What resulted was a wasteful package that is full of more pork then a pig farm and more payoffs than an Illinois Governor's office," said Tony Perkins, president of FRC, in a statement.

"All this bill will do is greatly enlarge government programs and waste while pushing the U.S. economy and American families deeper into debt," he added.

FRC noted that in the Senate version, money in the form of tax breaks is a significantly different figure from the 40 percent President Obama promised.

"Democrats in the Senate, joined by liberal spending Republicans, have now joined with the Democrats in the House of Representatives to mortgage away the future of our children and their children," Perkins commented. "We call on President Obama to reject this bill and tell Congress to pass legislation that helps families and creates jobs, rather than only helping a few politicians in Washington and their cronies."

The House and Senate began official talks Wednesday on how to reconcile the two versions of the stimulus bill.

Members of the House are expected to vote on the $789 billion bill on Friday because leading Democrats demanded time Thursday to read the details on some spending cuts they're unhappy with, according to CNN.

The bill also includes investments for health care and alternative energy; funding for infrastructure projects; and aid to state and local governments, including more benefits for individuals who are unemployed and without health insurance.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) complained on the House floor Thursday morning saying, "Never have so few spent so much so quickly to do so little. This is not a road to recovery. This is a recipe for disaster."

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) admitted that the nobody believes the bill is perfect but said "Americans urgently need our help."

"Working families across the country are watching and waiting. Time is running out," he said on the Senate floor, according to The Washington Post.

One religious leader is also urging for quick action.

The Rev. David Beckmann, president of the Christian anti-hunger group Bread for the World, urged Congress to quickly pass a stimulus bill.

"Congress has spoken loudly and clearly with the passage of the Senate and House versions of the economic recovery package, and we urge the conference committee to follow suit before the upcoming President's Day recess," Beckmann said. "After all, helping struggling families is not an alternative to preserving and creating jobs, it is in fact one of the most effective ways to preserve and create jobs."

He especially supported putting money towards programs that help low-income people, like SNAP (food stamps) and unemployment benefits.

According to Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody's and a former adviser to John McCain during his presidential run, for every dollar of federal investment, the SNAP program produces $1.73 in economic stimulus, and extended unemployment benefits produces $1.64.

"Speed is of the essence. Since December 2007, the economy has shed 3.6 million jobs, about half of them in the last three months," Beckmann said. "The unemployment rate released recently, of 7.6 percent or 600,000 jobs, is the highest since 1992."

Congress aims to send a stimulus package to the White House by Monday – Obama's suggested deadline.

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