Washington

Faith leaders gather at White House to boost Biden’s infrastructure plans

The White House hosted religious leaders to promote President Biden’s big-spending infrastructure proposals Wednesday, just as the president was meeting with holdout Democratic lawmakers.

The faith leaders, in a coalition called the Circle of Protection, met with Cedric Richmond, director of the White House office of public engagement. They called on lawmakers to pass the administration’s proposals totaling more than $4.5 trillion.

In a letter to lawmakers, the group said the pending legislation “would strengthen the physical and social infrastructure of our society, cut family and child poverty more than any time in our lives, and ensure the precious right to vote for all people made in God’s image.”

Jim Wallis, of Georgetown Center for Faith and Justice, said of the legislation, “These are issues, what Jesus would call ‘good news to the poor’.”

“We want to bring a religious factor into this conversation,” he told reporters at the White House. “You can’t be pro-family and not have economic policies that help families escape poverty. These bills will help families escape poverty.”

No Republican lawmakers support the larger, $3.5 trillion proposal that includes an expansion of social safety-net programs. 

Mr. Wallis said, “These things should be bipartisan. Making them partisan is really, to me, a religious offense.”

Rev. Walter Kim, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, also spoke of the value of child tax credits.

“It’s not a theoretical thing. They’re the lives of actual people,” he said. “We urge the passage of that legislation.”

Episcopal Bishop Michael McCurry said there’s “a moral high ground that these bills have an opportunity to meet … to make sure that people most in need are cared for.” 

“Jesus of Nazareth said, ‘as you did it to the least of these, you have done unto me,’” he said. “That’s what we stand for, regardless of our religion. That’s what our country stands for at our very best, and these bills present an opportunity to be our best.”

Asked if he was angry with Republicans, he responded: “I’m not angry with anybody because God is love.”

Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, said the legislation “makes very good economic sense.”

Mr. Wallis said the group also supports the administration’s proposed tax increases, which amount to roughly $3 trillion.

“When there’s a concentration of wealth, and the poor are being neglected, then they have a responsibility, biblically, to support the most vulnerable,” he said.  

Rev. David Beckman, president emeritus of Bread for the World, said the group “supports the overall thrust of the whole economic package.” 

“We support higher taxes on high-income people and corporations” because the amount of aid for low-income people “really depends on the size of the investment,” he said.

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