- The Washington Times - Friday, April 12, 2002

President Bush urged the Democrat-controlled Senate yesterday to take up his legislative agenda, and set a Memorial Day target for passage of a plan to create a new tax break for charitable donations.
In an East Room address, Mr. Bush exhorted religious leaders and grass-roots activists to "unleash your talents and energy on the Hill" in lobbying for the tax-break idea. The plan is a scaled-back compromise to Mr. Bush's proposal to allow federal funding for religious charities.
"It's an urgent time for you to act, and I think it's going to help America," Mr. Bush said. "This really isn't about any political party, I want to assure you. It's a way to make sure America is as hopeful as we possibly can be."
Yesterday's plea was the latest in a series of presidential appeals to Congress on behalf of the Bush agenda. Over the past week, Mr. Bush also has sought action on energy, trade and anti-terrorism legislation, and a ban on human cloning.
He specifically asked supporters to contact the Senate Finance Committee about the Charity Aid Recovery and Empowerment Act, sponsored by Sens. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, and Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat. The proposal would allow individual taxpayers who do not itemize to deduct up to $400 a year in charitable donations. For couples, the maximum deduction would be $800.
Allowing non-itemizers to have the deduction could go a long way toward helping charities that have seen a decline in donations since September 11. Mr. Bush estimated that up to 84 million tax filers take only the standard deduction and do not itemize deductions.
"Listen, charitable giving is important for all the people in our country, not just the wealthy. Everybody ought to be encouraged to give," Mr. Bush said.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said he and Mr. Bush discussed the tax break and its prospects for Senate consideration during a breakfast meeting yesterday.
"A lot of work has been done to make it a better bill, and I think a good number of Republicans and Democrats will likely support it when the legislation comes up," Mr. Daschle said. "I think it's a bill that merits support, and we'll find the time to do it."

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