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Legislative Issues for the 112th Congress


March 2011

Following is the comprehensive list of issues submitted by the public policy committees which flow from Church teaching and policies established by the bishops (see appendix entitled, "Policy Sources"). The issues are divided into two categories which are based on the likelihood of Congressional Action and are not intended to either prioritize or ascribe a level of relative importance to these issues. Depending on developments during the two-year life of a Congress, issues may move to another of the categories.

Substantively important issue addressed in legislation which either is expected to be approved by Congress or is likely to be introduced at the initiative of USCCB. The USCCB expects to take a formal position and will commit all appropriate lobbying efforts, including grass roots activity, to influence the disposition of specific legislation addressing the issue.

General Advocacy/Monitoring
Substantively important issue addressed in legislation which may or may not be considered by Congress which the USCCB intends to track closely in order to determine if and how the USCCB should respond if Congress decides to take action.




  • Abortion Funding Bans (Appropriations Riders)

    Oppose federal support of abortion in domestic and international health programs, military hospitals, District of Columbia, and federal prisons, and seek permanent codification of current bans

  • Alternatives to Abortion (Pregnant Women Support Act)

    Support efforts for pregnant women who may otherwise resort to abortion and for their children.

  • Conscience Protection

    Oppose discrimination against health care providers that do not participate in abortion, and work to incorporate this policy into permanent law.

  • Contraceptive and Abortifacient Mandates

    Oppose the creation of new mandates for contraceptive or potentially abortifacient drugs; support conscience protection for those who may be affected.

  • Foreign Aid

    Oppose U.S. funding for organizations that promote abortion overseas or support coercive population programs; support morally appropriate international aid.

  • Health Care Reform

    Support the unborn child rule in the Children's Health Insurance Program; correct abortion and conscience problems in newly enacted health care reform legislation.

  • Stem Cell Research

    Oppose research that uses stem cells obtained by destroying unborn human life; support funding for morally acceptable alternatives.

General Advocacy/Monitoring

  • Abortifacient Drugs

    Support rescinding Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for RU-486.

  • Abortion Regulations

    Support informed consent for women and safety regulations and reporting requirements for abortion clinics.
  • Abortion Rights (Freedom of Choice Act)

    Oppose the establishment of abortion as a "fundamental right" and efforts to strike down existing abortion restrictions and regulations.

  • Abstinence Education

    Maintain dedicated funding for abstinence education programs.

  • Euthanasia and Medical Neglect

    Oppose the legalization of euthanasia or assisted suicide or the weakening of protections for the lives of handicapped newborns.

  • Family Planning Funding (Title X)

    Oppose increased funding for Title X programs and support needed reforms (more effective exclusion of abortion from the program; respect for parental rights).

  • Human Cloning

    Support a ban on human cloning for any purpose, and the patenting of human embryos.

  • Parental Rights

    Oppose the transport of minors across state lines to evade parental involvement laws on abortion.



  • Defining Marriage

    Support efforts that preserve, promote, and protect the meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman in federal law and legislation.

    Oppose all efforts to redefine or erode the meaning of marriage (which is the union of one man and one woman) in federal law.

  • Expansion of Spousal Benefits

    Oppose efforts in federal legislation that function to incrementally erode marriage, including attempts to expand spousal benefits (that rightfully belong to married couples, i.e., husbands and wives) to persons of the same sex or other unmarried persons.

General Advocacy and Monitoring

  • Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA

    Continue to express at least non-support for the Employee Non-Discrimination Act.

  • Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)

    Oppose efforts to undermine the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

    Monitor federal level activity and specific provisions in proposed legislation to identify areas of incremental marriage erosion and strategize accordingly.



  • Children

    Support adequate funding for the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to care for and place unaccompanied alien children.

  • Citizenship and Immigration Services

    Support adequate funding for naturalization, eliminate current backlogs, and assist immigrants and refugees in integrating into American society.

  • Comprehensive Immigration Reform

    Support increased opportunities for immigrants to legally enter the U.S., legalization for the undocumented, a temporary worker program and restoration of due process rights.

  • Detention of Aliens

    Support increased funding for Legal Orientation, Alternatives to Detention, and the Pro-Bono representation Project for immigration detainees.

  • Refugee Admissions

    Support reforms in the refugee admissions process, an increase in the number of refugee admissions, and better management of the flow of refugees to the U.S.

  • Refugees – Overseas Assistance to Refugees

    Support increased appropriations for overseas refugee assistance

  • Refugees – Protection of Particularly Vulnerable Populations

    Support efforts to protect particularly vulnerable populations of refugees and refugee-like individuals, including but not limited to Haitians, Columbians, and Iraqi Christians

  • Refugees - Resettlement in the United States

    Support increased assistance for the self sufficiency of refugees in the United States, including increased funding for the Voluntary Agency Matching Grant Program.

  • Religious Worker Visas

    Support making permanent the special immigrant non-minister religious worker visa program and religious worker visas for foreign-born religious seminarians.

General Advocacy/Monitoring

  • Asylum

    Oppose unjust bars for asylum seekers; reduce instances where aliens are held in detention and support codification of detention standards for immigration detainees.

  • Children

    Support adjusting the status of undocumented high school and college students, and oppose detaining non-criminal illegal aliens by local authorities.

  • Due Process for Aliens

    Support discretionary relief from removal for aliens with U.S. minor children, due process reforms and broader discretion for aliens in removal proceedings.

  • Family Immigration

    Support reunification of U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) with close family members and efforts to increase discretion to waive grounds of inadmissibility.

  • Immigration Enforcement

    Support the respect of human and civil rights of individuals by immigration enforcement personnel including mandating human rights training for such personnel.

  • Refugee Admissions

    Support the repeal of unjust bars to admission.



  • Foreign Assistance Funding

    Support funding for morally appropriate humanitarian assistance and development programs, including the inclusion of strong conscience clauses; promote provisions that reduce poverty and enhance efficiency, transparency, participation, and partnership with faith-based institutions.

  • Human Rights and Religious Freedom

    Support religious freedom as a fundamental right and coordinate closely with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom to highlight religious freedom issues; support the reauthorization of the International Religious Freedom Act.

  • International Trade

    Support trade preferences for poor countries through structures that ensure accountability to stimulate economic development; support provisions that protect poor, indigenous communities, the environment, and labor rights in legislation relating to U.S. bilateral and regional trade agreements.

  • Root Causes of Trafficking in Persons

    Maintain funding for prevention programs that provide education and training, jobs and sustainable livelihood skills to those vulnerable to trafficking; support reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

  • Violence Against Women

    Support policies that reduce violence against women and promote gender equality with increased opportunities for young girls and women to receive education; support legislation that would establish, implement and monitor action plans and programs that deal with violence against women.

  • Country Specific Advocacy

    Encourage U.S. support for U.N. and multilateral efforts to stabilize and rebuild Afghanistan, fund humanitarian relief and reconstruction to generate Afghani employment, promote stability and protection of religious freedom in Pakistan.

    Africa: Sudan
    Promote peace, security and justice in the aftermath of the January 2011 referendum, and ensure the delivery of emergency, humanitarian and long term development assistance where needed and appropriate.

    Support rebuilding and development efforts in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake through a comprehensive plan that includes trade preferences.

    Support a timely "responsible transition" in Iraq that addresses the humanitarian and refugee crisis, and religious freedom for Christians and other minorities in Iraq, and enhance U.S. support for multilateral efforts to stabilize and rebuild Iraq.

    Support the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, including a two-state solution and a successful conclusion of negotiations on the Fundamental Agreement.

General Advocacy/Monitoring

  • Debt Relief Policy

    Support multilateral debt cancellation for poor countries.

  • Food Crisis(Agricultural Subsidies and Food Security)

    Support funding and humanitarian assistance to address severe food shortages, and agricultural policies that do not disadvantage poor farmers in developing countries; inform policy makers of impacts of subsidies on poor and vulnerable farmers abroad.

  • Foreign Assistance Reform

    Support foreign assistance that focuses on long-term development assistance on the needs of the poor; support a greater emphasis and authority on development and diplomacy in providing foreign assistance and decrease the amount of foreign assistance going through the military; advocate for increased resources to rebuild civilian capacity to manage foreign assistance; encouraging transparency, good governance and participation of civil society.

  • Global Climate Change—Impact on the Poor at Home and Abroad

    Support provisions in global climate change policies that assist the poor in the most vulnerable developing nations to adapt to and mitigate the impact of climate change.

  • Migration

    Support addressing the root causes of migration and seek long-term solutions to stimulate sustainable economic development in sending countries.

  • Mining and Extractive Industries

    Monitor implementation of public accounting of revenues from extractive industries to ensure that resource-rich developing nations invest in sustainable economic development, especially for the poor; support provisions that enable the poor living in areas rich in resources to have a voice in how those resources are used.

  • Nuclear Weapons/Indiscriminate Weapons

    Support the reduction of nuclear stockpiles and securing of nuclear materials, and support restrictions on cluster munitions and landmines.

  • Torture

    Support the prohibition of the use of torture, domestically or internationally, for any person in U.S. custody.

  • U.S. – Muslim Engagement

    In collaboration with the Committee on Ecumenical and Inter-religious Affairs, encourage increased dialogue and diplomacy between the U.S. and Muslim countries to advance conflict resolution.

  • Country Specific Advocacy

    Africa: Great Lakes
    Promote peace, security and good governance as well as provide humanitarian assistance and long-term development assistance where appropriate; support peace building efforts of the local Churches.

    Support promotion of human rights, the peace process, and improvement in the foreign assistance given to Colombia.

    Support the lifting of economic sanctions and restrictions on travel to Cuba and greater engagement with the Cuban government; support the local Church and the promotion of human rights.

    Support reconciliation, human rights, and the strengthening of democratic institutions.

    Support direct and sustained diplomatic engagement with Iran, in collaboration with international partners, to encourage Iran to be a responsible actor in the region and world; support measures to guide Iran in using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes only.

    Support the sovereignty and stability of Lebanon.

    Promote human rights and democracy.

    Support religious freedom, human rights and the Church in Venezuela.

    Promote human rights and democracy.



  • Budget/Appropriations (ESEA, IDEA, child nutrition, higher education and technology programs)

    Support continued or increased funding for all federal programs benefiting public, private, and religious school students and teachers.

  • ESEA/Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

    Support "child benefit" as the principle for participation in programs and protect full and equitable participation of students and teachers in all covered programs.

  • Parental Rights

    Support tax credits for personal/corporate donations to scholarship funds, the DC Opportunity Scholarship Fund, and permanent educational tax deductions for expenses, including tuition.

  • Early Childhood

    Support Universal Pre-K initiatives that assist parents to choose among public, private and religious pre-schools.

  • Telecommunications

    Support net neutrality inclusion in the Universal Service provisions including increased funding, simplification of the E-Rate application process and protections against fraud/abuse.

  • Teacher Benefits

    Support tax credits and incentives for their educational expenses, and/or professional development.

General Advocacy/Monitoring

  • Environmental Hazards, Health, and Safety Issues Affecting School Children

    Support independent studies of environmental, health, and safety hazards and funding to address them including technical assistance and training to school personnel.

  • Homeland Security/Child Protection/Catastrophic Events

    Support institutional safety and security of children in religious schools in the event of catastrophic events and provide equitable treatment of students, teachers and families. Support implementation of the legislation as it affects students, teachers, and parents in private and religious schools.



  • Federal Budget
    Urge that there be a priority for the poor in discretionary funding and entitlement programs and deficit reduction.

  • Tax Treatment of Poor Families

    Support budget and tax provisions that would protect and assist poor and vulnerable families and children.

  • Health Care

    Support efforts to fix abortion and conscience problems, maintaining and strengthening coverage, expanding coverage to the uninsured, improving quality and access, improvement of public programs and protection of immigrants.

  • Overcoming Poverty and Economic Recovery

    Address broad shared recovery, systemic issues, family factors in poverty, etc.)

  • Job Creation and Just Workplace

    Urge that the needs of poor families and children are addressed in economic recovery plans.

  • Hunger, Nutrition and Food Policy

    Support the targeting of subsidies, the interests of small farms, and nutrition programs in the Farm Bill.

  • Religious Liberty

    In collaboration with the Office of the General Counsel, support the protection of right to serve of Catholic agencies.

General Advocacy/Monitoring

  • Affordable Housing

    Support National Housing Trust Fund, adequate appropriations for housing and homelessness programs.Oppose any weakening or dismantling of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA).

  • Global Climate Change—Impact on the Poor at Home and Abroad

    Support provisions in global climate change policy that assists the poor in this country by offsetting the increased costs of energy, including utilities and transportation.Support adopting appropriate technology and alternate energy resources that promote sustainable development.

  • Religious Liberty

    In collaboration with the Office of the General Counsel, advocate for conscience protections in federal regulations, legislation and programs affecting the Church and the Church's institutions.Advocate for rights of faith-based organizations to serve and participate in federal programs.

  • Farmworkers

    In collaboration with MRS, monitor agricultural jobs provisions in immigration legislation.

  • Civil rights

    Oppose any provisions or bills that would reduce the rights of people with disabilities.Oppose any provisions or bills that limit the right to vote or to participate in civil society.

  • Death Penalty and Criminal Justice

    Advocate for reduction in the federal use of the death penalty and oppose any expansion of the federal use of the death penalty.Support a restorative justice approach to criminal justice programs.



  • Broadband/ Internet Access

    Support efforts to prohibit internet service providers (ISPs) from interfering with or discriminating against users and internet content providers based on content.

  • Children and Media

    Support constitutional efforts to reduce children's exposure to violent, indecent, and/or obscene radio and television programming.

  • Low Power FM Radio/Television

    Support authorizing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to lift existing limitations and extend Low Power FM radio service to many communities.

General Advocacy/Monitoring

  • Copyright Protection/Fair Use

    Oppose copyright laws preventing Catholic schools, libraries, etc. from making lawful use of copyrighted material to advance their educational goals.

  • Digital Television

    Support requiring digital television broadcasters to better serve the needs of children and parents, religious communities and all segments of the community.

  • Overhaul of the 1996 Telecommunications Act

    Support diversity of ownership of television and radio stations, cable systems and newspapers; protect noncommercial use and access to the Internet.



  • Conscience Protection; Religious Integrity Issues

    Support the protection of both the identity and integrity of religious entities partnering with government to provide health education and social services.

  • Religious Accommodations

    Explore any opportunity for Congressional consideration of legislation protecting the religious freedom rights of churches.

  • Reporting Requirements

    Oppose changing churches' exemptions from annual information returns to the IRS as well as other possible government oversight of religious organizations.

  • Tax Policy Affecting Charitable Contributions

    Support increased incentives for charitable giving.

General Advocacy/Monitoring

  • Political Activity

    Monitor efforts to address political activity by churches and religious organizations.

  • Public Policy Advocacy Restrictions on Nonprofit Organizations

    Oppose the creation of unreasonable restrictions on public policy/advocacy activities of churches or other non-profit entities.

  • Tax Policy Affecting Charitable Contributions

    Monitor proposed changes to church pension plans and to tax exclusion for parsonage allowance.


"Policy Sources" for Legislative Issues


Pro-Life Activities
Evangelium vitae, Pope John Paul II, 1995; Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities, approved by the full body of bishops, 2001, Part III: Public Policy Program; Living the Gospel of Life, approved by the full body of bishops, 1998; Resolution on Abortion, approved by the full body of bishops, 1989; On Embryonic Stem Cell Research, approved by the full body of bishops, 2008.

Migration and Refugee Services
Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope, approved by the full body of bishops, 2003; One Family Under God, approved by the full body of bishops, 1995; Resolution on Refugee Protection, approved by the full body of bishops, 2001.

International Justice and Peace
(Development Assistance) USCCB/CRS Testimony on 2005 Foreign Assistance, 2004; "Millennium Challenge Account: A Proposed Conceptual Approach for Eligibility," Office of International Justice and Peace, August, 2002; Letter to Foreign Appropriations Subcommittees, Bishop John Ricard, 2004.

(Trade Policy) For I Was Hungry and You Gave Me Food: Catholic Reflections on Food, Farmers, and Farmworkers, approved by the full body of bishops, 2003; "Joint Statement on US-CAFTA, " approved by the full body of bishops and SEDAC, 2004; Letter to Ambassador Zoellick on Trade Negotiations in the Doha Development Round, Bishop John Ricard, 2004.

(International Debt Relief) A Jubilee Call for Debt Forgiveness, approved by the Administrative Board, 1999; "Statement on Debt Relief to Poor Countries," Bishop John Ricard, 2004; Letters from Bishop Ricard to Secretary of the Treasury John Snow, 2005, and 2004.

(Iraq) The Harvest of Justice is Sown in Peace, approved by the full body of bishops, 1993; "Statement on Moral Responsibilities for U.S. in Iraq," Bishop Wilton Gregory, 2004;

"Statement on Abuse of Iraqi Prisoners," Bishop John Ricard, 2004; "Statements on War with Iraq," 2003 and 2002.

(Cuba) Letter to House of Representatives on Flake Amendment, Bishop John Ricard, 2004; Letter to President Bush on Report of the Commission for Assistance for a Free Cuba, Bishop Wilton Gregory, 2004.

(Africa) A Call to Solidarity with Africa, approved by the full body of bishops, 2001.

(Nuclear Weapons/Landmine s/Arms Trade) The Harvest of Justice is Sown in Peace, approved by the full body of bishops, 1993; "Statement on Nuclear Weapons," Bishop Wilton Gregory, 2004; "Sowing Weapons of War: A Pastoral Reflection on the Arms Trade and Landmines, " approved by the full body of bishops, 1995.

International Peace and Reconciliation Initiatives:

(Middle East) Letters from Bishop Skylstad on Negotiations between Israel and the Holy See, to Condolezza Rice, and to Israeli Ambassador, 2005; Letters and Statements by Bishop Wilton Gregory on U.S. Support for Sharon Initiative, 2004, on Deteriorating Situation in the Holy Land, 2003, on Road Map for Peace; "A Moment for Peace in the Middle East," Bishop John Ricard, 2004.

(Colombia) Statement on Colombia, Cardinal Bernard Law, 2000, Letter to Secretary of State Albright on Colombian Peace Process, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, 1999.

(Great Lakes) A Call to Solidarity with Africa, approved by the full body of bishops, 2001; "Testimony on the Crisis in the Great Lakes," USCCB/CRS, 2003.

(Sudan) A Call to Solidarity with Africa, approved by the full body of bishops, 2001; Statements by Bishop John H. Ricard: On Southern Sudan Peace Agreement, 2005; Cry of the People of Darfur, 2004; Protect Human Lives in Darfur, 2004.

(Natural Resources of Developing Nations) A Call to Solidarity with Africa, approved by the full body of bishops, 2001.

(Balkans) Statement Deploring Kosovo Atrocities, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, 1998 and 1999; "Four Steps for Peace in Kosovo," Bishop Joseph Fiorenza, 1999.

(Global Climate Change) Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence, and the Common Good, approved by the full body of bishops, 2001; Renewing the Earth, approved by the full body of bishops, 1991; Letter to the Senate, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and Bishop John Ricard, 2004.

Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility, approved by the full body of bishops, 2003; Principles of Education Reform in the United States, approved by the Administrative Committee, 1995; and In Support of Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools, approved by the full body of bishops, 1990. Renewing Our Commitment to Catholic Elementary & Secondary Schools in the Millennium, approved by the full body of bishops, 2005.

Domestic Justice
Putting Children and Families First, approved by the full body of bishops, 1991; Economic Justice For All, approved by the full body of bishops, 1986; Moral Principles and Policy Priorities for Welfare Reform, approved by the Administrative Board, 1995; Homelessness and Housing, approved by the Administrative Board, 1988; For I Was Hungry and You Gave Me Food, approved by the full body of bishops, 2003; Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration, A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice, approved by the full body of bishops, 2000; A Good Friday Appeal to End the Death Penalty, approved by the Administrative Board, 1999; Food Policy in a Hungry World, approved by the full body of bishops, 1989; Health and Health Care, A Framework for Comprehensive Health Care Reform, approved by the full body of bishops, 1993; A Commitment to All Generations: Social Security and the Common Good, approved by the Administrative Board, 1999; Confronting A Culture of Violence, approved by the full body of bishops, 1994; Renewing the Face of the Earth, approved by the full body of bishops, 1991; Brothers and Sisters To Us, approved by the full body of bishops, 1976, Revised, 1991. A Place at the Table: A Catholic Recommitment to Overcome Poverty and to Respect the Dignity of All God's Children, approved by the full body of bishops, 2002.

Aetatis Novae, 1992; Communio et Progressio, 1971, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications; Inter Mirifica, Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, 1963; Renewing the Mind of the Media, Statement from the U.S. Catholic Bishops, approved by the full body of bishops, 1998.

General Counsel
Dignitatis Humanae, "Declaration on Religious Liberty," Vatican II, 1965; USCC Testimony on Tax Reform before the Committee on Ways and Means of the U.S. House of Representatives, 1969 and 1985; "Promote, Preserve, Protect Marriage," approved by the Administrative Board, 2003; Statement, Between Man and Woman: Questions and Answers About Marriage and Same–Sex Unions; USCCB Committee on Marriage and Family Life, approved by the full body of bishops, 2003.

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