IRS, deregulation bills advance in the House

The House advanced two good-governance bills on Wednesday, including one that would delay an IRS regulation that Republicans say would prematurely limit the free speech of tax exempt groups.

Members approved a rule for the two bills in a typically partisan 231-185 vote, although five Democrats voted with Republicans.

ADVERTISEMENT
The rule governs floor consideration of H.R. 3865, the Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act. That bill would delay for one year a regulation that prevents tax-exempt 501(c)(4) organizations from conducting voter registration activities.

The IRS says that pending rule is needed to help clarify what activities are allowed by tax-exempt groups. But Republicans, stung by last year's IRS targeting scandal, say Congress needs to know more about the relationship between the IRS and these groups before new rules are released.

"It says since we don't fully understand what's going on … since we know with certainty that the public's trust has been diminished, let's not have the administration … completely re-regulate that area," Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.) said of the bill.

"Rather, let's put this off … for one year and one year only, so that the Congress can have a full understanding."

Democrats indicated opposition to the bill, and many are likely to oppose it in the final vote scheduled for later today. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) said the IRS's inspector general has proposed the rule as a way to improve the operation of the IRS, but said the GOP would delay that improvement.

The rule also covers the Achieving Less Excess in Regulation and Requiring Transparency (ALERRT) Act, H.R. 2804. That bill is aimed at making federal rules more transparent, and ensuring they impose as little cost to companies as possible.

Among other things, it would require agencies to report each month on their regulatory plans. Rules issued without following this requirement would be invalidated.

Members will debate that bill later Wednesday night, and start work on amendments, but final passage of that bill will happen Thursday.