Senate keeps charitable deductions

The Senate on Thursday voted unanimously to preserve the full charitable-giving deduction in the tax code, rejecting yet another key part of President Obama’s strategy for paying for the ambitious spending programs in his 2010 budget.

“The Senate sent a clear message to the president that we do not support increasing taxes on charitable contributions to try to cover the costs of health care reform,” said Sen. Robert F. Bennett, Utah Republican, who sponsored the amendment.

Mr. Obama’s budget called for lowering the tax deduction for charitable contributions from wealthy individuals and using the money to pay for part of his health care expansion.

The tax change was one of the most contentious parts of Mr. Obama’s budget.

Sen. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said the amendment didn’t conflict with current law or with the goals of Mr. Obama’s budget, and urged all senators to accept it.

On Wednesday, the Senate voted 67-31 to reject using a fast-track budget process to impose a greenhouse gas emissions cap-and-trade program, but the Senate has reaffirmed Mr. Obama on several other key issues, including giving him a free hand in spending bailout funds.

Both the House and Senate are rushing to finish their budgets this week. Because of the rules, Republicans have far more chances to force difficult votes in the Senate. In the House, Democratic leaders’ budget will pass unaltered, and the only question is how many votes it will gain.

None of the votes taken this week is binding on House and Senate negotiators, who will have to hammer out a final budget compromise. But senators said votes such as Mr. Bennett’s amendment and Wednesday’s global warming amendment make it tougher for Democrats to go back to Mr. Obama’s original plans.

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