WASHINGTON (RNS) -- President Bush's plan to funnel federal money to religious charities cleared its final hurdle in a House committee on Wednesday but only after its provisions on charitable giving were significantly scaled back. The House Ways and Means Committee approved the "Community Solutions Act" on a party line vote of 23-16. Its companion legislation, which allows religious charities to compete for government dollars, was passed by the House Judiciary Committee last month. The measure now heads for a vote by the full House and then to the Senate. The legislation, however, is far different from the original Bush plan. That plan would have allowed non-itemizing taxpayers to deduct charitable donations, potentially increasing giving by $15 billion. Under the bill approved Wednesday, the taxpayers would be able to deduct up to $25 in donations the first year and $100 -- or $200 per couple -- by 2010. The benefit to taxpayers would be about $4 per person at first, rising to $15 by 2010. The package is expected to cost $6.4 billion, compared to the $84 billion of the Bush plan, according to the Associated Press. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Bush was pleased with the vote, even though it fell short of his plan. "It's not everything he asked for, but it's much of what he asked for," he said. Rep. J.C. Watts, R-Okla., who sponsored the legislation, said the measure has "cleared every legislative hurdle thrown its way" and expects the bill to pass the House by the end of the month.
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