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Senate Overwhelmingly Passes National Service Expansion

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Having more volunteerism in our communities is undeniably a good thing and the Senate just passed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act by 78 to 20. So a big win for bipartisanship today.

Here’s more from CNN:

Among other things, the bill would more than triple the number of positions in the AmeriCorps program, from 75,000 to 250,000, by 2017.

The increase could have a huge ripple effect in national volunteerism rates. Last year, 75,000 AmeriCorps members recruited and supervised 2.2 million community volunteers […]

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At the same time, the bill would create four new national service corps and several other initiatives, including a so-called “Summer of Service” program to spur greater community outreach by middle and high school students. Older Americans would also be encouraged to volunteer more through the creation of a “Silver Scholars” program, under which individuals 55 and older who perform 350 hours of service receive a $1,000 award.

The legislation would increase the existing AmeriCorps educational stipend offered to volunteers to $5,350 — the same amount as the maximum Pell college grant.

Now, to be fair, the bill passed in the House by a margin of 275 to 159, which isn’t nearly as bipartisan as the Senate. Not only that, the passage is scaring at least one congressperson…

It’s under the guise of — quote — volunteerism. But it’s not volunteers at all. It’s paying people to do work on behalf of government.

I believe that there is a very strong chance that we will see that young people will be put into mandatory service. And the real concerns is that there are provisions for what I would call re-education camps for young people, where young people have to go and get trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward and then they have to go to work in some of these politically correct forums.

Wanna guess who that was?

Some opponents of the bill say it’s fiscally irresponsible to spend money on this right now, but with the price tag totaling a measly $6 billion over the next 5 years, I’m not understanding that logic. Expanding these numbers could triple the amount of volunteers a year to 6.6 million. Do you know how much work each one of them would have to do a year (over a 5 year period) to pay for the program? $182. And I’m guessing that you’ll get the average volunteer to contribute work that’s worth well over that.

Still, I’m not surprised to hear that a large number of Republicans in the House said no to this. But as I’ve said in the past, they have to engage voters with better ideas or else they run the risk of genuinely being labelled the party of no.