The U.S. Congress is moving to help encourage Americans to increase monetary donations to the earthquake relief effort in Haiti. The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved bipartisan legislation, which the Senate is also expected to pass, to enable Americans to deduct donations to the Haiti recovery operation from their federal income tax due in April.
Supported by Republicans and Democrats, the legislation is aimed at encouraging Americans to send money to the Haiti relief effort.
Tens of millions of dollars have already flowed to Haiti through a variety of non-government humanitarian and religious groups and governments around the world have pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in aid.
Representative Charlie Rangel of New York, who chairs the powerful tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, said Americans have been quick to respond to the horrendous devastation in Haiti.
Lawmakers from both major political parties, he said, agree on the need to keep aid flowing and make it easier for Americans to contribute:
"What this bill does is allow Americans and others to make generous cash contributions to the charity of their choice and at the same time not have to wait until next year to be able to deduct this [from their taxes] as a charitable contribution," Rangel said.
The House legislation mirrors a bill in the Senate, where the Democratic chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus, called it a "call to arms" for Americans to give to the relief and rebuilding of Haiti and help ease suffering there. Congress took similar action in 2005 after a tsunami devastated large parts of Asia. Republican Eric Cantor said the legislation shows that despite their differences, the two major political parties can cooperate in times of crisis.
"While it is often the differences between the parties in Congress that makes the news, this legislation demonstrates that we can come together on common sense proposals to ease the suffering of our fellow man," Cantor said.
Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen called the measure an important incentive for Americans to reach deeper into their pockets to help the people of Haiti, and issued this call to President Obama where international aid efforts are concerned:
"I urge President Obama to immediately begin efforts to convene an international donor's conference to bring together other responsible nations and international organizations that can join the U.S. in committing [to] efforts to help the Haitian people recover from this horrible disaster," she said.
Approved by voice vote, the legislation would allow cash contributions Americans make to the Haiti relief effort, through March 1 of this year to be deducted from taxes for 2009 which are due on April 15.