- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 11, 2002

ASSOCIATED PRESS
President Bush is calling on the Senate to pass legislation boosting religious charities by Memorial Day, the latest in a string of presidential proddings against the Democrat-controlled body.
With the April 15 tax deadline approaching, the president planned a White House event for today to highlight a new tax break that would help up to 84 million filers if they give to charity.
A fact sheet prepared by the White House explained that Mr. Bush was urging the Senate to act on compromise legislation introduced in February. Over the past week, Mr. Bush has urged the Senate to act on stalled bills concerning energy, trade, terrorism and human cloning.
The legislation pending in the Senate is a scaled-back version of Mr. Bush's original proposal and what the House has approved.
The Senate bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, and Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, would give a new tax break to the 70 percent of filers who claim the standard deduction. Individuals could deduct up to $400 a year in charitable donations from their income in calculating how much they owe in taxes. For couples, the maximum deduction would be $800.
To keep down the value of the tax breaks, most of the provisions are to expire after two years. The bill now is worth about $12 billion over 10 years, with about $10 billion of that spent in the first two years. Supporters do not yet know the source of any budget offsets.
Mr. Lieberman and Mr. Santorum plan a series of their own events promoting the bill.
The provision in the House bill that has provoked the most Democratic opposition would open new government programs to churches and other religious groups. It would let the groups deliver government services while maintaining the existing exemption from civil rights laws that allows churches to hire and fire based on religion.
The Senate bill eliminates this provision, known as charitable choice, and instead has a provision that bars the denial of government contracts to religious groups simply because they have religious names or because they display religious art, icons, scripture or symbols.
The bill also gives tax breaks for corporate donations, allows tax-free donations from Individual Retirement Accounts and encourages banks to offer Individual Development Accounts, which match the savings of low-income people.

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