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  • Writer's pictureDavid Beckmann

I've recently been appointed Dean's Advisor for Political and Economic Justice at Virginia Theological Seminary. and I'm excited that Senator Tim Kaine will meet with the Seminary community on Monday, April 4, 10-12 am. You can participate on Facebook or in-person.

Kaine is a devout Catholic, and our topic will be Faith and Justice. The Senator will also share his perspective on the challenges our country faces, and we will ask for his ideas on how to negotiate a version of the Build Back Better Act that can pass the Senate. See more about the event and sign up at

  • Writer's pictureDavid Beckmann

It’s good news that Congress this week approved appropriations legislation for the current fiscal year. The budget and appropriations negotiations dragged on until almost halfway through the fiscal year, but the two parties finally struck a deal. This and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill that passed in November show that compromise on big issues is still possible in our deeply divided country. We have been buffeted by one plague after another - Trumpism, COVID-19, and now war in Europe - but our political leaders can still work out compromises.

Nobody got everything they wanted in this $1.5 trillion package, but the bill includes good news for those of us who focus on efforts to end poverty and hunger. It significantly increases funding for education (public schools in low-income communities and college scholarships) and mental health (including opioid addiction treatment). It provides new funding for climate resiliency and money to implement the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill. The Circle of Protection coalition of church bodies and ministries in which I’m involved focused on needs in the areas of housing and child nutrition; the bill includes significant new funding in these areas too, but less than we wanted. This legislation also includes two promising policy decisions - funding for a White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, Health, and Hunger and passage of the Violence Against Women Act.

As this package was being negotiated, the Circle of Protection especially stressed the need for international aid, notably famine relief and COVID vaccinations in low-income countries. The Republican negotiators blocked these initiatives to address dire needs among the world’s poorest people. They also blocked most of the funding the President requested for the next phase of our response to COVID in the United States. The Democratic leadership in Congress then tried to cover the cost of domestic and international work against COVID with unspent funds that were allocated to state governments last year. But a group of rank-and-file Democrats opposed that, and the appropriations legislation passed with very little funding to deal with the ongoing challenge of COVID-19.

Republicans and Democrats joined together enthusiastically to approve military, economic, and humanitarian aid to Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees. I support U.S. and NATO defense against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But this week’s appropriations decisions provided an early example of the massive, wide-ranging, long-term damage this war in Europe will do. Our political leaders were united in Ukraine-related funding, but couldn’t agree on funding for next steps in the struggle to control COVID.

  • Writer's pictureDavid Beckmann

I was recently appointed Dean’s Advisor for Political and Economic Justice at Virginia Theological Seminary. This is a three-year appointment. I’ll teach classes and help to develop the seminary's St. Nicholas Faith and Justice Center. VTS is an excellent, gospel- and justice-grounded seminary in the national capital area - a great place to continue my work in legislative advocacy and the politics of poverty. VTS is very much a community, and I live nearby.

I continue to serve as Coordinator of the Circle of Protection, an advocacy coalition of church bodies and Christian organizations that together include 100 million members. The wide array of Christian leaders who lead the Circle strongly support the momentous anti-poverty programs that are part of the Build Back Better Act - which failed to pass the Senate in December by one vote. An immediate result was the end of the improvements in the Child Tax Credit that were included in the American Rescue Act of March 2021. These provisions reduced child poverty by about 30 percent, and child poverty surged again this January when they ended. The Circle and its members, including Bread for the World, are urging Congress and the President to develop a new version of Build Back Better that can pass the Senate.

As the Senate considered the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act in January, the Circle disseminated statements on voting rights from a wide array of church bodies and related agencies. This bill would have blocked the current wave of state laws, which are mostly targeted against African-American and Latino voters. But all Republicans and two Democrats voted no, and it failed by two votes. We are now encouraging bipartisan efforts to develop a much more modest democracy-protection bill that can pass the Senate.

Meanwhile, the leadership of Congress’ appropriations committees, both Republican and Democratic, is pushing to pass appropriations legislation for the current fiscal year. It would likely include much-need funding for housing, nutrition, and other domestic needs. The Circle is focusing, in particular, on the funding it may provide to meet urgent needs among poor people around the world. The U.S. government is now leading a drive to make COVID-19 vaccinations available everywhere: 55 percent of the world’s people have received two shots, and additional funding is needed to finish the job. More widespread vaccination will likely slow the rate at which new variants attack people everywhere. The need for additional humanitarian assistance is also urgent; 45 million people are now living on the edge of famine, the great majority of them in countries that are also suffering armed conflict.

In this election year, I’ll be giving time and money to get Democrats elected. The Republican Party is now dominated by Trumpism, and nearly all congressional Republicans have repeatedly voted as a bloc against programs to reduce poverty and against measures to protect democracy. Despite this opposition, President Biden and congressional Democrats have, in my judgment, done remarkably well in dealing with all the plagues that now buffet our nation and world.

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