AmeriCorps is Changing the Minds of Congressional Republicans
January 15, 2001
When President Clinton created AmeriCorps, by signing the National and
Community Service Trust Act of 1993, he fulfilled his
promise to enable America?s young people to earn money for college while
serving their communities. Although Congressional
Republicans immediately and frequently targeted the program for
elimination, AmeriCorps? success in providing service to
thousands of communities and opportunities for nearly 200,000 Americans has
changed the minds of many opponents.
For example, in September 1999, an amendment was introduced in the Senate,
which would have eliminated all AmeriCorps
funding. This measure was soundly defeated, 61-38, by a bipartisan
coalition that included 16 Republican Senators.
[Roll Call Vote 286, 9/22/1999] Here are several examples of leading
opponents of AmeriCorps who are now among the
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ): "I was wrong about AmeriCorps."
In 1993, Sen. McCain voted against the creation of the AmeriCorps program
and later joined with Congressional Republican
in efforts to zero-out funding. In January 2000 he said, "I was wrong
about AmeriCorps... I was extremely skeptical at first, mostly
because I didn?t trust the authors. But I?ve got to say that, over all,
the program?s been a success. And it was a failure on my
part not to recognize that earlier." [Klein, New Yorker, 1/17/2000] McCain
was also a cosponsor of the AmeriCorps
reauthorization bill in the 106th Congress.
Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA): AmeriCorps is headed in a positive direction
In 1994 when he was running for Senate, then Rep. Santorum characterized
AmeriCorps as a program "for hippie kids to
stand around a campfire holding hands and singing ?Kumbaya? at the taxpayer
expense." [Marx, Associated Press, 10/2/99]
Recently Sen. Santorum?s position has changed. In 1999 he joined the
bipartisan effort to preserve AmeriCorps funding;
last year his spokeswoman Melissa Sabatine admitted: "The Senator feels
that under Harris Wofford's leadership the
[AmeriCorps] program is headed in a positive direction." [Infield,
Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/12/00]
Ex-Rep. John Kasich (R-OH): AmeriCorps volunteers have "done some really
As Chairman of the House Budget Committee, Rep. Kasich led the Republican
effort to eliminate AmeriCorps program and
criticized the program saying: "[I]t's an oxymoron -- hey, I'm a volunteer,
how much am I going to get paid?" [Gugliotta,
Washington Post, 10/26/1995] Last year, however, Kasich said, "I have
seen them do some amazing things in Harlem . . .
I know that AmeriCorps workers were involved in a number of the homeless
programs. I would like to spend some time trying
to refocus pieces of it and trying to make it more of a public/private
situation, but I don't think I would cast a vote anymore
that would eliminate it... they've done some really great work, and I'm
impressed with them. [Riskind, Columbus Dispatch,
Former-Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN): "I have changed my mind about AmeriCorps"
In an opinion article he wrote in June 2000, Former Sen. Coats acknowledged
that he "did not support the legislation that created
AmeriCorps." However, he goes on to write, "I have changed my mind about
AmeriCorps. Instead of distorting the mission of the
civic sector, AmeriCorps has proved to be a source of new power and energy
for nonprofit organizations across the country...
AmeriCorps members, through their idealism, enthusiasm and can-do spirit,
have multiplied the impact of organizations like
Big Brothers Big Sisters and Habitat [for Humanity], and hundreds of other
organizations large and small." [The Hill, 6/21/2000]
Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO): "There are people who are providing valuable
Sen. Bond voted against the creation of AmeriCorps in 1993, however he was
one of the 16 Republican Senators who voted
down the effort to eliminate funding in 1999. During this debate, Sen.
Bond declared, "The battle over whether we ought to have
an AmeriCorps program or not is over. It has been decided... It is funded.
It is in place in communities in my state and across
the nation. There are people who are providing valuable services. There
is strong support." [Congressional Record, 9/22/1999]
Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR): "Stands with President" in support of AmeriCorps
In September 1999 Sen. Smith voted to cut funding for AmeriCorps. However,
two months later he expressed his support for
AmeriCorps at the dedication of the Oregon Gardens wetland. The Appeal
Tribune in Silverton, Oregon reported that "Sen.
Gordon Smith told a crowd that he stands with President Clinton in support
of funding with the AmeriCorps program."
[Dunham, Appeal Tribune, 11/13/99] Sen. Smith also became a cosponsor of
AmeriCorps? reauthorization in the 106th
Other Republican Senators Have Changed Their Vote on AmeriCorps
In addition to those mentioned above, the following is a list of Senators
who voted against the creation of AmeriCorps in 1993
but changed their minds and now support AmeriCorps: Sen. Robert Bennett
(R-UT), Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), Sen. Chuck
Grassley (R-IA), Sen. Orin Hatch (R-UT) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KS).
[Roll Call Vote 231, 8/3/1993]
Republicans Co-Sponsored AmeriCorps Reauthorization
This year Senators Kennedy (D-MA) and Jeffords (R-VT) in the Senate and
Rep. Shays (R-CT) in the House introduced
the National and Community Service Amendments Act to reauthorize the
AmeriCorps program. The following is a list of
Congressional Republicans who co-sponsored this legislation despite voting
against the creation of AmeriCorps or
supporting efforts to eliminate funding in the past: Sen. Conrad Burns
(R-MT), Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), Sen. Mike
DeWine (R-OH), Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM), Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY),
Rep. Rick Hill (R-MT), Rep. Charles
Pickering (R-MS), Rep. John Porter ( R-IL), Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL).