This vote was on an amendment by Max Baucus, D-Mont., that would put the Senate on record as endorsing the opinion that Congress should preserve the federal income tax deduction for charitable giving. These types of "sense of the Senate" amendments are not binding. The amendment was offered to a bill that would reauthorize the Corporation for National and Community Service programs (which includes VISTA and AmeriCorps).
Baucus said he offered his amendment as an alternative to a similar amendment offered by John Thune, R-S.D., that would put the Senate on record as endorsing the opinion that the tax law shouldn't be "changed in any way that would discourage taxpayers from making charitable contributions." Baucus' amendment, in comparison, would express the idea that Congress should "preserve the income tax deduction for charitable contributions," he said.
"This country has a proud tradition of charitable giving. We are proud of that tradition. We are proud that we give to those in need, and we should encourage people to keep on giving. One of the best ways to do that is through the itemized deduction for charitable giving," Baucus said. "We very much support the itemized deduction for charitable giving. But [Thune's] amendment is overbroad. It would put the Senate on record as favoring the preservation of incentives for charitable giving over all other priorities."
Thune said Baucus' amendment affirms being able to deduct charitable contributions from income taxes, but does not express that it should be "fully" deductible.
"What my amendment does is retains what we have today in terms of tax law, tax policy in its treatment of charitable giving, charitable contributions, and retains the full deductibility of those charitable contributions," Thune said. "[Baucus' amendment] does take away the word “full,” which opens the door for changes that will occur in the budget that is going to be offered next week and would reduce the amount—the tax benefit that is accorded to those who make charitable contributions."
By a vote of 56-41, the Senate adopted the amendment. Every Democrat present voted for the amendment. Every Republican present voted against the amendment. The end result is that the Senate adopted an amendment that would express its sense that Congress should preserve the federal income tax deduction for charitable giving. (The Thune amendment was later defeated, see vote 113.)