This afternoon, the United States House of Representatives failed to advance the Supporting America's Charities Act (H.R. 5806), a milestone bill that would have widely benefited philanthropy and charitable organizations across the country. The vote broke down along party lines, with 275 Members voting for the bill and 149 Democrats voting "no" on the grounds that the provisions are not offset with spending cuts elsewhere. Despite majority support, the bill failed to garner the two-thirds support necessary to overcome procedural challenges.
"The Council on Foundations is disappointed that the United States House of Representatives failed to advance the ‘Supporting America's Charities Act,'" said Council President and CEO Vikki Spruill. "The provisions in this bill would have had a real and positive impact on communities across the country served by the philanthropic sector. This action is especially troubling as we enter the holiday season, when our country comes together around the ideal of charity that unites us all."
The charitable provisions in the Supporting America's Charities Act had widespread public support and would have encouraged charitable giving and strengthened the ability of charitable organizations to serve communities nationwide. Spruill went on to say:
"We will continue to work closely with members of Congress to see that these charitable provisions are enacted into permanent law. Permanence would allow donors and charitable organizations alike to better plan their charitable investments—resulting in more dollars flowing to charitable causes.
"The Council acknowledges the tireless leadership of outgoing Ways and Means Committee Chairman David Camp on these key charitable issues. We strongly encourage his successor, Chairman Paul Ryan, to continue this important work to positively impact communities across the country.
"Throughout our history Americans, regardless of their political party, have understood the value of charitable giving and the call to give back to our communities and those in need. This bill speaks directly to that consensus and helps advance an important American value."
Despite the failure of the bill to pass, many House members expressed overwhelming support for the policies advanced by the charitable provisions in the Supporting America's Charities Act.
In a passionate floor statement in support of the bill that he introduced, outgoing Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI-4) urged his colleagues to "support America's charities and those that benefit from their work and make these policies permanent." As the holiday season approaches and the year draws to a close, Camp told his colleagues, "now is not the time for those who so selflessly donate to wonder what tax surprises are waiting for them, no more than it is the time for charitable organizations to grow uncertain about their futures."
Representative Jim Gerlach (R-PA-6), a co-sponsor of H.R. 5806, dismissed the notion that a 1-year extension of these provisions was enough. "That 1 year is 2014, the year we're already in," he said. "We only gave [nonprofits and donors] 21 more days of decision-making time—that is pitiful."
On the Democratic side of the aisle, Ranking Ways and Means Committee Member Sander Levin (D-MI-9) explained that he was voting "no" because of the cost of the bill. "This is about fiscal responsibility and fiscal priorities," he said on the House floor, emphasizing his strong support for charitable organizations and the underlying giving incentives in the bill. Other Democrats echoed Representative Levin's concerns.