National Faith Leaders Respond to 
President Biden’s Build Back Better Framework

FOR PLANNING PURPOSES

Friday, October 29, 2021

 

MEDIA CONTACT

Ben Carter, ben@nhc-dc.com 

Austin Schuler, aschuler@faithinpubliclife.org | 540-280-3393

 

National Faith Leaders Respond to President Biden’s Build Back Better Framework

 

Faith in Public Life Action and other national faith leaders urge Congress to press for a truly comprehensive recovery package

 

Washington, DC – On Friday, October 29, faith leaders from across the country responded to the Build Back Better framework released by the White House, calling it an important first step and asking for Congress to continue its work to support families through a moral and just economy.

 

Joyce Ajlouny
General Secretary, American Friends Service Committee:

 

“As negotiations continue on the Build Back Better bill, we are heartened to see that the child tax credit – without work or income requirements – is still included. This measure could reduce child poverty by nearly half and provide much needed relief to families. Unfortunately, our communities still need paid family leave, which has now been eliminated from the proposal. There have been efforts to weaken the bill’s climate provisions. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and investing in a just transition for all impacted communities is critical to tackling the ongoing climate change emergency. We must maintain the highest levels of funding investments in these efforts as a commitment to our stewardship of the planet. We are also calling on our leaders to do everything in their power to deliver permanent protections, not second-class status, for immigrants in the U.S. The advice of the Parliamentarian does not outweigh our moral responsibility to build a more just and compassionate world.”

 

Rev. David Beckmann
Coordinator, Circle of Protection:

 

“I pray for passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the President’s framework for the family support budget bill. The infrastructure bill includes important provisions for people in poverty, and the two bills together would do more to reduce poverty than any legislation in my lifetime. Now is what the Bible calls a kairos moment. If a few Members of Congress delay action, they risk forfeiting the opportunity of a lifetime to make the U.S. economy more just and sustainable.”

 

Rebecca Linder-Blachly
Director, The Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations:

 

“The Build Back Better Framework announced by President Biden today represents a historic investment in the human needs of low-income and vulnerable Americans. The legislation will extend important new support to families and children, in addition to providing affordable health care to millions of previously uncovered people, essential care for older and disabled Americans, and vital investments in confronting the climate crisis. The Episcopal Church strongly supports this framework and urges Congress to do the same.”  

 

Maurice Bloem
Executive Vice President, Church World Service:

 

"As a faith-based organization, Church World Service believes in the inherent dignity of all people and the right for all people to live healthy and safe lives. The Build Back Better legislation is a once in a generation, historic, and transformational piece of legislation that advances this core belief." 

 

“The extensions of the expanded Child Tax Credit and EITC, robust investments in child care, housing, and pre-k included in the package will aid many families that have been historically left behind. Given the scale of the current climate emergency, we welcome the provisions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as first steps, but more must be done to fulfill our country's commitment to limit global warming and pave a way to a healthier future. As we continue to fight for the rights of all immigrant and refugees, we are heartened to see the inclusion of protections for undocumented immigrants in the bill and urge Congress to deliver permanent protections for our undocumented neighbors who are pillars of our communities and congregations. While this package is a significant step forward, we urge the administration and Congress to further expand protections and support for all our community members."

 

Rev. Jennifer Butler
CEO of Faith in Public Life Action:

 

“People of faith nationwide have prayed and acted for months to pass a Holy Recovery that enables every person to thrive. The Biden administration’s Build Back Better framework lays the foundation to knock down these barriers to thriving for our families and neighbors on a vast scale. Congress must now work to expand the circle of people included, and we will seek these improvements in a spirit of hopeful determination.
 

“President Biden’s plan makes historic, life-changing investments in care for families -- from the largest ever federal expansion of child care and early childhood education, to investments in workers who provide home care for our seniors, to badly needed Medicaid expansion. The plan includes a major step toward long-overdue immigration policy reforms that honor the dignity of our undocumented neighbors and families. Taken together, these policies address injustices that disproportionately harm women and people of color. The framework also includes the biggest investments in combating climate change in world history and includes housing funding that will put millions of families in stable affordable homes. It all gets paid for by ensuring the wealthiest few pay their fair share of taxes.

 

“Members of Congress must now finish the job in a spirit of moral commitment to human dignity. That means reinserting paid medical and family leave, ensuring pathways to citizenship for our immigrant neighbors, and no more misguided cuts. Behind all the dollars and cents are our neighbors and families.
 

“People of faith will continue working in the spirit of what Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., called ‘creative maladjustment’ to the injustices and barriers to thriving that too many of our families and neighbors face, until the final vote is cast.” 

 

Galen Carey

Vice President of Government Relations, National Association of Evangelicals:

 

“We welcome the proposed extension of the Child Tax Credit (CTC) for an additional year.  The CTC has enjoyed strong support from both Republicans and Democrats. Congress should make this pro-family provision a permanent part of our tax code. Prospective parents need the assurance of long-term support, not intermittent assistance that depends on how the political winds are blowing in Washington each year.

 

Additional support for childcare and pre-K education is also welcome, if it continues to be provided through certificates that parents can use for the care that best meets their family’s needs—whether faith-based or secular. 

 

Proposals to redefine this support to parents as federal financial assistance to the providers chosen by the parents would reduce the available providers at a time when we need all hands on deck.  Faith-based providers should not be forced to choose between scrubbing faith from their curriculum or turning away families that depend on federal assistance.”

 

Rev. Eugene Cho

President and CEO, Bread for the World:

 

“The reconciliation framework released by the White House includes many important provisions that will ensure the nation’s most vulnerable children receive the care and nutrition they need. It extends the expanded Child Tax Credit for another year and makes the full refundability of the credit permanent, strengthens child nutrition programs, and expands access to high-quality child care. 

 

While the framework omits proposals supported by Bread for the World and scales back others, we urge members of Congress to support its passage. We also urge Congress to come back next year to ensure programs such as the expanded Child Tax Credit continue and to increase funding for child nutrition. 

 

God loves all of humanity and has special concern for the most vulnerable people among us, including children. Passing the reconciliation framework will help countless children and their families escape hunger and poverty and enable them to lead healthy and productive lives.” 

 

Pablo DeJesús

Executive Director, Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice:

 

As Unitarian Universalists we hold sacred the inherent worth and dignity of every person. In the practice of our values, this means we care for those suffering the most harm from society's indifference and marginalization. The Build Back Better legislation takes bold action as a once in a lifetime opportunity. It represents the minimum needed step, the sowing of seeds, towards a compassionate and faithful recovery. It is a meaningful recalibration to a more just ‘new normal,’ a more just ‘new equilibrium’ between people and their economy. The positive expected impacts for children, working families, and immigrants are significant. The steps for the environment are urgent first steps towards our national resilience, and species continuation. From universal pre-K to expanded Child Tax Credits and EITC, from reductions in greenhouse gases to needed reform of our broken and hostile immigration system, America needs this package, and wants it now. While this bill is good, more could be done, our families need more-- like paid medial and family leave. Congress must act knowing that history will judge them, at a time of continued crisis, for how they treated the least powerful and most vulnerable among us with their votes on Build Back Better.”

 

Michele Dunne

Executive Director, Franciscan Action Network:

 

“As Franciscans, we are called to solidarity with the most vulnerable in our society including children, the elderly, and those lacking adequate healthcare. All will receive help through the Build Back Better legislation, as will our wounded earth. As a mother, I am thrilled to see universal pre-K from age 3, which will be a life-changing investment in our children’s development as well as a great practical help to their parents. We hope this legislation is the first step in investing in healthcare, education, the environment, and a social safety net that fully protects all Americans and we pray that members of the US Congress will prioritize care for the vulnerable and for the earth as they cast their votes.”

 

Fran Eskin-Royer

Executive Director of the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd:

 

“The heart of this historic Build Back Better agreement is a desire to re-imagine how we serve our neighbors, how we prioritize our neighbors, and how we level the playing field. We are creating a ‘new normal’ through policy and structures, chipping away at the inequities that exist and building up a stronger future for all of us.  Children, working families, immigrants and other marginalized communities are at the heart of the matter for the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd and our coalition partners.  We stand together with expectation and hope at this pivotal moment.” 

 

Rev. Dr. Susan Frederick-Gray

President, Unitarian Universalist Association: 

 

We welcome the progress that President Biden and Members of Congress have made to develop a framework for the Build Back Better legislation. We Unitarian Universalists hold sacred our principle that every human being is worthy of dignity and respect and that we have a shared responsibility to create just systems so that all people can thrive. The framework offers a historic opportunity to reduce poverty and expand healthcare and childcare. The provisions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect undocumented immigrants are critical for the wellbeing of our entire communities. This legislation is fundamental because it increases the life chances for everyone, including the most vulnerable.

 

We urge Congress to pass the Build Back Better Act immediately and to understand that it is just a beginning. We must ensure more progress for the diverse spectrum of our communities, including health care coverage, paid family leave, a path to citizenship for immigrants, and a just transition to renewable energy. We do not need more funding for border enforcement and false climate solutions. We urge the administration and Congress to further expand protections and support for all our community members and make substantial investments in renewable energy and just climate solutions to preserve our future, and our children’s future. 

 

Rev. Jimmie R. Hawkins

Director, Presbyterian Church (USA), Office of Public Witness/U.N. Office:

 

“The Presbyterian Church (USA) fully endorses the passage of the Build Back Better Act. It contains vital emergency and long-term support for besieged families. The bill would reduce health insurance premiums and save 9 million people an average of $50 per person per month. It would add dental, vision, and hearing coverage to Medicare. It would close the Medicaid gap for low-income Americans, helping 4 million uninsured people gain coverage, and cut prescription drug prices. This bill MUST become law so that Americans can make ends meet and have the resources needed to provide for their families the necessities of life. It is imperative that Congress pass this vital legislation so that families might be provided the ability to have a life free from unnecessary hardship. This legislation provides invaluable assistance for our children and vulnerable adults. It is the least we can do.” 

 

Rev. Susan Hendershot

President, Interfaith Power & Light:

 

“It is the moral responsibility of our nation, and our sacred task as people of faith, to care for our neighbors, our common home, and to protect our children’s future. The faith community has called on President Biden and Congress to deliver bold climate and environmental justice investments that match the scale of the climate crisis and our communities’ needs. 

 

The Build Back Better Act is a good start to delivering those investments, but we know more is needed to safeguard Creation and to achieve justice for the communities, disproportionately Black, Indigenous, and people of color, who are bearing the brunt of fossil fuel pollution. We now look to Congress to pass this bill with urgency and continue to take action to address the climate crisis at the scale it needs to be addressed. We look forward to continuing to work with the administration on its “whole of government” approach, and additional actions to curb emissions from vehicles, oil and gas infrastructure, and other sources.”

 

John B. Johnson

Program Director for Domestic Policy, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:

 

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) social statements state clearly: “God works through the family, education, the economy, the state, and other structures necessary for life in the present age. God institutes governing authorities, for example, to serve the good of society. [The ELCA] respects the God-given integrity and tasks of governing authorities and other worldly structures, while holding them accountable to God.”

 

Every one of us knows someone who has been impacted—sometimes tragically—by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

Today, our political leaders step ever closer to significant and transformational progress in creating a more racially equitable, fairer, and robust response to the needs of vulnerable communities that existed before the pandemic and are now starkly made plain as a result of COVID-19.  The framework of the Build Back Better proposal with the bi-partisan Infrastructure legislation is an investment in the dignity and opportunity that rests with every policy maker and citizen alike 

 

The gains in these legislative priorities may be smaller than we all may want. Many programs have expiration dates that will need to be addressed.  Make no mistake, however, good and needed help to hurting families and workers will be realized.  Families, children, and vulnerable people face a more equitable playing field now than before the pandemic. 

 

All of us must continue to urge our elected officials to move these legislative proposals into law, and we must thank them for their service to our country.”

 

Sheila Katz

CEO, National Council of Jewish Women:

 

“Build Back Better is a once in a generation opportunity to rebuild our economy, not just to where we were before the pandemic, but toward an economy that is truly inclusive, just, and responsive to the needs of everyone living in our country. Our Jewish tradition teaches us to recognize the dignity of every human being, kavod habriot. We believe that everyone deserves to thrive, not merely survive. 

 

“The historic investments to expand access to affordable health care for all Americans, provide universal pre-K for children, and combat child poverty through expanded taxes credits are monumental achievements that must be celebrated. Investing in communities, especially women, children and families, is equally as essential to rebuilding our economy as revitalizing the streets we drive on every day.

 

“At the same time, National Council of Jewish Women is dismayed that the framework announced today does not include paid family and medical leave, a necessity to address the economic recovery desperately needed in this country. Without paid leave, quite simply families cannot get back to work. We will continue to urge Congress to include paid leave as the bill is written and revised.”

 

Abby J. Leibman

President & CEO, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger:
 

“The Biden Administration is clearly committed to reducing hunger, as shown by the historic investments in child nutrition programs in the Build Back Better Framework announced today. Our Jewish values compel us to repair the brokenness of our world, to lift up the dignity of every human being and prevent people from falling into hardship by working to address systemic inequality. Building back better is repairing the world — it’s knowing that we must not return to broken systems of the past, but find what works to create lasting, meaningful change. Congress must act swiftly on this framework as a down payment on their commitment to equity and an economy that works for all — this must include vital investments in federal nutrition programs and an extension of the Child Tax Credit, which has already proven to significantly reduce food insecurity in this country.”

 

Rev. Carlos L. Malave

Director, Latino Christian National Network:

 

“The reconciliation framework released by the White House today sends a strong message to Americans that their lives matter. Millions struggling to afford a place to live will have the opportunity to secure a dwelling and their dignity. The family, especially children, are a priority under the legislative framework. The extension of the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax for one year is a welcomed and good starting point. We are close to implementing the most significant investment for the American people in generations. This has happened because of the effort and commitment of civil, religious, and political leaders of goodwill. We support this framework for the legislation and trust that Congress will pass it without delay.”

 

Mary J. Novak

Executive Director, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice: 

 

“Build Back Better is a transformative framework that includes key provisions, like a historic investment in affordable housing, health care for all, and permanent refundability of the Child Tax Credit, which will cut childhood poverty in half. Importantly, this bill is paid for by requiring ultra-wealthy billionaires and tax-evading corporations to pay their fair share of taxes. This is an important first step to eliminate the racial wealth and income gap in the U.S.

While the framework falls short in some areas, such as not providing families with 12 weeks of paid leave, and not including a clear pathway to citizenship, it will significantly ensure our country recovers from the pandemic and work to dismantle racism in our systems and structures. Speaker Pelosi, Senator Schumer, and President Biden prioritized vulnerable communities in this package, which will transform the lives of millions. We look forward to passage of the bill to improve the lives of everyone in the United States and build our economy anew.”

 

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner

Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism:

 

“The Reform Jewish Movement welcomes the Biden Administration’s historic Build Back Better framework, which uplifts marginalized communities and moves the United States toward an equitable economic recovery. By making long overdue investments in child care and universal pre-K, extending the expanded Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit, closing the Medicaid gap, investing in maternal health equity, and funding housing and anti-hunger initiatives, this plan will help workers and families live with greater security and opportunity. We call on Congress to swiftly pass the Build Back Better legislation.  

 

At the same time, there is more work to be done. As we heed the prophetic call to “speak up, judge righteously, and champion the poor and the needy,” we urge Congress to continue working to pass urgent priorities that were left out of the framework. This includes paid family and medical leave for all workers, creating equal access to affordable health care, and of course, confronting the growing climate crisis with effective, urgent legislation.”

 

Diane E. Randall

General Secretary, Friends Committee on National Legislation:

 

“The Build Back Better Framework is a momentous step toward a society with equity and justice and an earth restored. It continues the historic expansions to the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, enabling parents with little or no income to permanently receive income support which means fewer children living in poverty. The investments in housing assistance, health care, childcare, and pre-k will strengthen our society’s support of families and children. Additionally, the framework provides critical protections to immigrant communities that have suffered from congressional inaction for decades. The investment of hundreds of billions of dollars to address climate change through significant funding for clean energy incentives and clean technology is an essential step to reduce this country’s reliance on fossil fuels.

 

“While this package goes farther than any other in recent history to invest in people and their well-being, there is still much left to do. We have a moral imperative to create a clear pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. We know that creating paid family leave and a permanent extension of the Earned Income and Child Tax Credits is an investment in families. And we know continued action and investment to reduce carbon to stop climate change will determine our future”

 

“I urge the House and Senate to pass the Build Back Better Act immediately on these long-sought reforms with the intention of always asking how government can best serve all people.” 

 

Rabbi Jennie Rosenn

Founder and CEO of Dayenu: A Jewish Call to Climate Action:

 

“After months of remarkable grassroots organizing to demand climate action, Congress today appears to be moving forward with the first substantive climate legislation in a generation. Today’s negotiated framework includes historic investments in clean energy, environmental justice, and good-paying jobs. This package should be passed at the same time as the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, in order to accelerate our transition to the clean energy future that we so desperately need. It is long past time that America confronted the climate crisis.

 

“But this framework falls short of the promises our leaders made. Politicians at the margins of the Democratic caucus, who do the bidding of fossil fuel corporations and other moneyed interests, eliminated a target to reach 100% clean electricity by 2035 along with needed expansions in access to education, affordable healthcare, and paid leave. Today we lift up the cardinal Jewish commandment: “Justice, justice you shall pursue.” We stand with every working family, every American striving for a fair shot, and the courageous activists who are building a more just and livable future for us all.

 

“As this framework moves forward, it is time for the Biden Administration to adopt aggressive executive actions to accelerate federal climate action. We call on the President to ban oil and gas extraction on public lands, cancel ongoing and future fossil fuel infrastructure projects, and introduce new regulations to rapidly cut transportation and electricity emissions. We will continue building a Jewish climate movement that confronts the crisis with spiritual audacity and builds political power to call for action at the scale that science and justice demand.”

 

Rev. Dr. Gabriel Salguero

Pastor, The Gathering Place and President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition:

 

"The framework for a bipartisan infrastructure bill shows much promise toward helping some of the most vulnerable families and children by providing full refundability for the Child Tax Credit, expanding EITC, helping millions of uninsured people, and providing universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds. Indeed, this is a legislation with the potential to alleviate poverty for so many of our fellow citizens."

 

Reverend Adam Russell Taylor

President, Sojourners:

 

“As President and on behalf of Sojourners, we are pleased to see historic investments being laid out in the recently released family support budget framework. Members of Congress have a moral obligation as stewards of governance to help create a society that follows one of the most important commandments—love thy neighbor as thyself.  From housing to health care to child care to caring for our Earth, we believe this framework has the potential to bring good news to the people and communities across rural, urban, and suburban America. It is our hope that Members look into their hearts and continue to push for inclusion of life-changing and lifesaving programs and policies such as full refundability and permanent expansion of the Child Tax Credit, twelve weeks of Paid Family and Medical Leave (PMFL, and expansion of Medicare and Medicaid in a way that positively impacts the millions who rely on those services for care. If included in the final framework, Members have the opportunity to seal their legacy in history as true champions of the American people who governed with goodwill and hope.”

 

Jim Wallis

Founding Director of Georgetown University’s Center on Faith and Justice:

 

“Congress has arrived at a kairos moment, when transformational change is within reach. These are measures that I have been fighting for for 50 years,” said Wallis, an anti-poverty advocate, Christian ethicist and public theologian. “I hope and pray that critical elements of this framework, especially those that support poor people, make it into the final bill. We will be watching Senate obstructionists closely. ” 

 

The Build Back Better Framework released by the White House on Thursday includes a one-year extension of the Child Tax Credit, a measure Wallis advocated for on Capitol Hill and in the White House.  According to researchers, the CTC has the potential to reduce child poverty in the U.S. by half. 

 

The framework also invests billions in affordable housing, provides universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds and offers tax credits to people in states that cannot access Medicaid -- all policies that could lift millions out of poverty, Wallis said. The measures are paid for by increasing taxes on wealthy people and corporations. 

 

“We have a moral obligation to ensure that every child — all made in the image of God -- has the chance to thrive,” Wallis said. “That is what it means to be ‘pro-family.’” 

 

Wallis had strong words for senators who insisted that items like paid family leave be removed from the reconciliation bill’s framework. 

 

“Senators Manchin and Sinema must stop placing their political self-interest ahead of the needs of the American public, including their constituents and low-income families countrywide,” Wallis said. “They should value courage, moral imagination and leadership more than their careers. ”

 

Jim Winkler

President and General Secretary, National Council of Churches:

 

“As Jesus told us, the kingdom of God belongs to the little children. As Christians, we are called to care for each one. The Build Back Better (BBB) Framework creates a brighter future for our children by providing universal pre-k for 3 and 4-year-olds and ensuring that childcare is affordable for many families. The National Council of Churches’ 2021 priorities include expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) so we applaud the one-year extension of these programs in BBB but will continue to advocate for a permanent expansion. The NCC has called for the administration to address health and educational disparities. Therefore, we fully support the Affordable Care Act premium tax credits for up to 4 million uninsured people in states where they can’t access Medicaid, but at the same time are troubled by the exclusion of paid family leave and tuition-free community college which, if included, would go a long way in bringing economic equity to the US.” 

 

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Faith in Public Life Action is a national movement of clergy and faith leaders united in the prophetic pursuit of justice, equality and the common good. Together, with a network of over 50,000 leaders, they are leading the fight to advance just policies at the state and federal level that affirm our values and the human dignity of all.