WASHINGTON (AP) – At the insistence of Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, the Senate is close to rekindling efforts to give low-income families bigger child tax credits.

Snowe wants to attach the child tax credits, along with new tax breaks for military personnel, to a popular bill designed to spur charitable giving. She blocked the charitable giving bill from routine procedures that would have sent it into final negotiations.

Snowe said uniting the bills will give the child tax credits a better chance to pass this year. The bills would enter negotiations together as the year winds down.

“We’re trying to get this done now, whatever way we can succeed,” Snowe said.

Senate Republican leaders support the plan.

“We think it’s fine to link the two if that’s what it takes,” said Jill Gerber, a spokeswoman for the Senate Finance Committee.

But the lead sponsor of the charitable giving bill, Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., indicated the strategy might do little to improve the prospects for expanding child tax credits this year.

Santorum said he has told senators inquiring about adding other items to the charitable giving bill as it heads into conference negotiations: “Don’t expect them to come back out of conference, because that’s not my intention.”

“If other people, for political motives or to express concern about the movement of other bills, want to tack things on for some sort of message purposes, that’s all well and good,” he said.

The debate over whether to expand child tax credits for low-income families flared up after President Bush signed a $330 billion tax cut that increased the child tax credit to $1,000 per child. More than 25 million middle-income families with children received checks this summer worth up to $400 per child.

But checks did not go to low-income families who didn’t qualify for the bigger tax credit because they paid little or no income taxes.

The House and Senate passed bills giving extending child credit payments to some of those low-income families, but they differed widely in size and scope. The bills stalled this summer.

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