Today, Education and Labor Committee Republican Leader Virginia Foxx (R-NC) spoke on the House floor in opposition to H.R. 5129, the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) Modernization Act. This flawed bill attacks religious liberty which could mean fewer low-income Americans receive the help they need. H.R. 5129 also shirks accountability, forcing taxpayers to fund programs that do not work.
Republican Leader Foxx’s remarks:
“Today, I stand in opposition to H.R. 5129, the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) Modernization Act of 2022. While I recognize that the CSBG program has been serving those in need for decades, I do not believe that this reauthorization bill improves CSBG services or fixes the program’s flaws. As Members of Congress, we have an obligation to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being spent as efficiently and effectively as possible, but in that regard the CSBG program is missing the mark.
“Spending $1 billion on a program that has limited accountability is yet another reason why our country is experiencing the biggest inflation crisis we’ve seen in 41 years. And with our national debt exceeding $30 trillion, it is time to stop mortgaging the future of the next generation with spending on programs that may not even work.
“There is little proof that CSBG programs are accomplishing the one goal they were created for—moving Americans out of poverty. In fact, there is more proof that CSBG has become nothing but another welfare program, which keeps Americans in poverty instead of lifting them into self-sufficiency.
“Under current law, CSBG lets states set their own benchmarks for progress, allowing ineffective programs to continue receiving taxpayer dollars despite poor performance. This bill continues that ineffective policy rather than creating commonsense measures to judge the program’s outcomes. This does not help people in need, and it is an irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars.
“When creating programs like CSBG, our goal should be self-sufficiency—not government dependence. This is particularly true with some of the changes proposed in H.R. 5129. For example, the bill raises the income threshold for individuals who can receive services under CSBG programs from 125 percent of the federal poverty level to 200 percent. In addition, it will allow individuals in the program to continue receiving services even after they have exceeded the income threshold. This program was created to help individuals most in need, but Democrats are trying to twist it into a permanent welfare pipeline.
“H.R. 5129 has other troubling provisions. Under this bill, organizations would be able to use grantee facilities for voter registration activities. While promoting political participation is important, it is simply not the purpose of this program.
“This new provision risks distracting servicers from their primary purpose and opening the door to partisan politics. We must preserve the integrity of CSBG by keeping in place important safeguards that protect against intertwining federal policy and partisan political activity.
“This legislation also adds a new requirement that will allow CSBG funds to be used for vague, undefined ‘health care needs.’ With Democrats’ increasingly radical stance on abortion and attempts to strip the Hyde Amendment from federal legislation, this language could open the door for taxpayer funded abortions and gender transitions. This is an unacceptable risk.
“Lastly, one of the most concerning parts of this bill is how it guts protections for faith-based organizations. Religious workers have been on the front lines serving the poor long before this program began. Instead of honoring their long history of service, this bill would require religious organizations to check their faith at the door to participate in the CSBG program. Faith-based providers deserve an equal opportunity to serve those in need.
“Our Founding Fathers wrote the First Amendment to protect the free exercise of religion from interference by the federal government. Yet this bill suggests that faith-based organizations should not be able to hire employees who share the same faith if they are going to participate in a federal program. This is unacceptable.
“The Constitution protects the right of religious organizations to hire in accordance with their beliefs. Congress recognized this right in enacting Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the constitutionality of a religious employer staffing exemption in 1987. The current law protections, which were adopted in a bipartisan manner nearly 25 years ago, should be uncontroversial. But H.R. 5129 makes these provisions controversial because Democrats think religious belief is backward and discriminatory.
“Democrats have claimed that these current law protections allow faith-based providers to discriminate against program beneficiaries. But that simply isn’t true. Democrats can’t point to a single instance of widespread discrimination in the CSBG program. These faith-based organizations exist to serve the neediest among us. The current law protections ensure they can continue to do that.
“If the purpose of H.R. 5129 was to improve CSBG, I’m afraid the bill has failed miserably. This modernization attempt is a false start.”