Great Seal of the United States.

The US House of Representatives passed a measure Wednesday, March 18th 2009, by a vote of 321-105 creating 175,000 “new service opportunities” under AmeriCorps. The “Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Act”, known as the GIVE Act, is slated for $6 billion over the next five years. After a great show of bipartisan interest in the House, the vote will now move to the Senate floor.

The legislation would also create additional “limbs” to AmeriCorps, expanding the reach of volunteerism, including a Clean Energy Corps, Education Corps, Healthy Futures Corps and Veterans Service Corps. The GIVE Act also expands the National Civilian Community Corps to focus on important areas such as humanitarian aid, disaster relief, and energy conservation policies.

It is the first time the AmeriCorps program has seen expansion since its creation by President Clinton in 1993. Many supporters claim that in light of President Obama’s recent election, the need and desire for volunteerism and charity has never been more crucial.

But the bill’s opponents say it could thrust ideology onto young “volunteers,” many of whom could be forced into service via the “Congressional Commission on Civic Service” clause included in the measure. A bipartisan committee has been charged with the task of exploring “whether a workable, fair and reasonable mandatory service requirement for all able young people could be developed and how such a requirement could be implemented in a manner that would strengthen the social fabric of the nation.”

The recent controversy over this bill is definitely warranted. Although I am for many of the things this legislation proposes to do, I find myself conflicted by the means which it uses to do it. I don’t think it’s Constitutional to require a mandate of service for anything in America. Doesn’t that undermine our greatest freedom – the freedom to choose? On the other hand, we are also guaranteed certain inalienable rights that this legislation would certainly help. Please share your thoughts and comments. I am very torn about this subject.

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