Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., may be away from the Senate fighting a brain tumor. But he and his friend Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, teamed up anyway Friday to introduce a bill seeking to spend $5 billion to vastly expand national service programs.
"Sen. Kennedy called me," Hatch said Friday, noting that he "wanted me to know that when I made the announcement ... it was to be the 'Kennedy-Hatch' legislation and not the other way around" to ensure top billing.
Hatch announced the bill with Caroline Kennedy, Sen. Kennedy's niece, in New York City at the ServeNation Summit, a gathering of business and government leaders discussing public service at the anniversary of 9/11.
John McCain and Barack Obama appeared at that summit on Thursday, and Hatch said both have agreed to co-sponsor the bill.
Hatch said he and Kennedy had long discussed the bill as a way "to marry two formerly competing visions of service," the full-time national service programs such as the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps pushed by Presidents Kennedy and Clinton, and less structured volunteering through charities pushed by Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
Hatch said it would spend $5 billion over five years seeking to draw 175,000 more people into giving a year of service to address specific national challenges.
Hatch said that would include offering "Serve America Fellowships" to provide modest stipends to help people work through faith-based and community programs for the "poor, hungry, homeless and needy."
Also, he said, "As a complement to the growth in the Peace Corps, we will authorize and fund Volunteers for Prosperity, which this year alone mobilized 43,000 doctors, nurses, engineers and other skilled Americans to meet urgent needs abroad, such as HIV/AIDS and malaria."
Hatch said the bill would also reward older Americans who offer volunteer service by providing "education awards they can transfer to children and grandchildren in exchange for their significant services."
He said the bill will also help marry learning in classrooms with service in the community. "Service learning has been shown to keep students engaged in school to boost student academic achievement, so we will offer competitive grants to local and state partnerships to carry out these efforts in our schools."
Hatch said the bill would also provide more federal work-study funds to "Campuses of Service" that "do an outstanding job in engaging their students in important community work."
Hatch said the bill will also "invest in a new Volunteer Generation Fund, matched dollar for dollar by the private sector, to increase the capacity of organizations to use volunteers to meet local needs."
Hatch said in his New York speech that service transforms the person who serves. "I saw how it changed my own life, when I went on a service mission in the Great Lakes states" as a young LDS missionary, he said.He said he hopes the bill will help again "ignite the spirit that 9/11 evoked in each of us. I am honored to reach across the aisle and join hands yet again with my good friend for the last 32 years, Ted Kennedy ... to provide more Americans more opportunities to sever each other and the country they love."