- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 12, 2001

President Bush encouraged House Republicans in an impassioned talk yesterday to rededicate themselves to his faith-based social service plan.
In his first lobbying trip to the Capitol, Mr. Bush told lawmakers he believes so deeply in his proposal to allow religious groups to care for the needy with government grants that he doesn't care "how long it takes" to enact.
"I saw it work its magic in places where hope had been lost," Mr. Bush said in the private standing-room-only meeting. "Our country ought to capture love and compassion and direct it to people who need help."
Hours later, the House Ways and Means Committee approved the tax provisions in the president's faith-based plan, creating about $13.2 billion in new tax deductions over 10 years for charitable giving.
The 23-16 party-line vote paves the way for action by the full House on the Community Solutions Act as early as next week.
The president visited the Capitol two days after calling on Congress to get moving again on his agenda. Following a swift early victory on tax cuts, Mr. Bush's other priorities have bogged down: His education plan awaits a House-Senate conference, his energy policy is taking criticism from environmentalists and the faith-based proposal is stalled in the Senate.
He chose as the audience for his 25-minute pep talk the House Republicans, who have been the launching pad for his legislative initiatives. He thanked lawmakers for approving a $1.35 trillion tax cut, both for the break to taxpayers and as a brake on federal spending.
"He felt very strongly that the American people deserve tax relief, and that we should use tax relief as a disciplinary tool to stop big-spending Democrats from their spending habits," said House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, Texas Republican.
Mr. DeLay called the president's remarks "passionate."
"Our members left that conference very much pumped about what the next few weeks are going to bring, and certainly re-evaluating and rededicating themselves to supporting this president and his agenda," Mr. DeLay said.
Mr. Bush pointedly did not address the campaign finance reform championed by Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona and headed for a House vote today.
Mr. Bush called on lawmakers to approve a patients' rights bill that "honors patients, not one that empowers the plaintiffs." He said "we're 90 percent there" on a bill sponsored by Rep. Ernie Fletcher, Kentucky Republican, that would allow fewer opportunities for litigation than a Senate-approved measure.
"I'm here to ask you to continue to work, so I can be sent a bill that I can sign," Mr. Bush said.
But Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said yesterday that more than 900 advocacy groups are now endorsing the Senate version.
"I'm very hopeful that if he won't sign it, at least he will let it become law," Mr. Daschle said of the president.
On trade policy, the president is seeking fast-track authority and told the Republicans of his experience as governor of Texas, where he saw increased trade alleviate poverty in Mexico.
Republicans acknowledged that for the most part Mr. Bush was preaching to the choir. But the president broke up his audience by recalling a comment once uttered by his lieutenant governor in Texas, Rick Perry: "If we agreed all the time, one of us wouldn't be necessary."
The president reserved some of his most impassioned remarks for his faith-based plan. Those in attendance say he was eloquent and even "fired up" as he spoke without notes in the basement conference room.
"These are the policies that have a real impact on people's lives," Mr. Bush said of the charitable choice proposal.
At the Ways and Means Committee, lawmakers approved tax deductions to encourage donations to charities, though the total is far less than the $80 billion package proposed by Mr. Bush.
"It's not at the exact levels that the president has proposed, but it's a $13 billion package and the president is very pleased that, for the first time since 1986, people who do not itemize on their tax forms will receive a charitable deduction," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.
The bill would allow single taxpayers who do not itemize to deduct up to $25 in charitable donations, growing to a maximum of $100 in 2010. The amounts would double for taxpayers filing jointly.
Committee Republicans did not explain the scaling back of the tax provisions but apparently were sensitive to Democratic charges that further tax relief could endanger Medicare surpluses.
The measure also would allow taxpayers who are more than 70 years old to make charitable contributions from their individual retirement accounts without tax penalty. And it would permit corporations to deduct more of their charitable contributions, capping them at 15 percent of their taxable income, up from 10 percent.

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