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
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
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.