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Vote on tax breaks hit with delay

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published May 5, 2006


WASHINGTON - A $70-billion tax package that would extend tax breaks for investors and protect 15-million middle-income families from a-tax designed for the wealthy ran into roadblocks Thursday in a fight involving the tax treatment of charities.

Republican negotiators from the Senate and House were at odds over language to tighten restrictions on charitable fundraising. Senate Republicans were supporting the proposal, but House Republicans consider it unnecessary government intrusion.

The standoff was part of a behind-the-scenes debate over what items should be included in a second tax bill that would handle a variety of issues that were left out of the main $70-billion tax bill that won approval from Republican members of a House-Senate tax conference committee on Tuesday.

The main tax measure would extend for two years a reduced 15 percent tax rate on dividends and capital gains and also keep 15-million middle-income families from being hit this year with the alternative minimum tax, which was designed to tax the wealthy but is ensnaring more middle-income taxpayers because of inflation.

EX-FBI analyst admits passing classified data

A former White House and FBI staffer pleaded guilty Thursday to passing classified information to plotters he said were trying to overthrow Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

During a federal court hearing, the former intelligence analyst, Leandro Aragoncillo, outlined five years of efforts to pass top secret and secret information. He worked as a military aide to vice presidents Al Gore and Dick Cheney and later became a civilian employee of the FBI.

Aragoncillo, 47, did not identify by name the current and former Philippine officials to whom he gave secrets except for ex-Philippine police official Michael Ray Aquino, who was arrested with him in September.

Aquino is accused of passing information from Aragoncillo about Filipino leaders to current and former officials of that nation.

Aragoncillo, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in the Philippines, pleaded guilty to a four-count indictment.

Flag protection amendment advances in Senate

WASHINGTON - A Senate panel on Thursday advanced a proposed constitutional amendment to ban flag desecration, a measure with little chance of congressional passage but potential political impact in an election year.

Approved 6-3 by a Judiciary Committee panel on the Constitution, the amendment reads: "The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States."

The House already has passed the amendment. Just bringing up the measure scores points with conservative voters who are crucial to the Republicans' plans to keep control of the House and Senate in November.

The 58 Senate co-sponsors are nine short of the two-thirds majority required to send constitutional amendments to the states, where approval by three-fourths of the state legislatures is needed for ratification.

House approves tighter security at U.S. ports

WASHINGTON - The House overwhelmingly approved legislation Thursday to try to stop nuclear weapons from being smuggled into the country by screening nearly all cargo for radiological materials at seaports. Yet the technology will not be available, the Bush administration said.

The 421-2 vote capped months of election-year debate in Congress over how to make the 140 U.S. seaports less vulnerable to terrorist threats without curbing commerce.

The bill "will improve the safety of the American people and the security of our global supply chain," said Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif. He said it "ensures our shores are our last line of defense, not our first."

The Homeland Security Department currently opens for inspections 6 percent of the 11 million cargo containers that enter U.S. seaports annually. Those containers are considered high-risk, officials said.

[Last modified May 5, 2006, 08:38:30]


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