Jewish Groups united on budget proposal — well, almost

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

James Besser in Washington

Jewish groups are pretty much united on wanting more government spending for critical health and social service programs as part of the federal budget for the next fiscal year.

But as Congress began chewing on next year’s budget proposal,  a letter signed by more than 100 local and national organizations, organized by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), was conspicuous in the lack of any Orthodox support.

The letter to Congress called for “comprehensive”  health care reform that “will provide quality, affordable, accessible choices to all” and for “sufficient discretionary spending to allow for new investments in critical human needs programs such as  Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), the Community Development Block Grant program (CDBG), the Social Services Block Grant, the Community Services Block Grant, the Older Americans Act, and Sections 8, 811 and 202 housing.”

It also asked for an extra $4 billion per year in new funding for child nutrition programs and for funding for the National Housing Trust Fund.

The deepening recession, the groups said, demands “a federal budget that balances the need for long-term fiscal discipline with the need to sustain critical services in this time of economic crisis.”

The letter, co-authored by United Jewish Communities, was signed by major groups like the American Jewish Committee and B’nai B’rith and the major bodies of Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative Judaism – but no Orthodox groups.

Nathan Diament, public policy director for the Orthodox Union, said the problem was one of emphasis.

While the letter addressed concerns by “many” in the Jewish community about the administration proposal to partially finance health care reform by reducing the deduction for charitable contributions, the OU believes it didn’t go far enough.

“The one thing we are very deeply concerned about is the change in charitable contribution deductibility rates,” he said.  “We wanted this letter to express much stronger concern about that.”

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.