House GOP targets IRS for more budget cuts

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The Internal Revenue Service is facing another budget cut under a spending bill unveiled Tuesday by House Republicans.

The $17 billion spending package sets aside roughly $11 billion for the tax-collecting agency. That's $341 million less than the IRS's current budget and $1.5 billion less than President Obama's request. 

While the cuts being pushed by the GOP are smaller than they were at the peak of the political targeting controversy at the agency, Republicans also included a number of policy riders to the appropriations package aimed at restricting the IRS.

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House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said appropriators singled out the IRS for cuts in a bid to stretch every dollar.

“In order to make these investments and to be good stewards of each and every tax dollar, the bill focuses cuts on lower-priority or poor-performing agencies — such as the scandal-plagued and inefficient Internal Revenue Service,” he said in a statement.

The bill includes several riders aimed at curbing the IRS's activities.

For example, the bill would block a proposed regulation from the IRS aimed at limiting the political activity of tax-exempt 501(c)(4) groups. The IRS has already said it is revisiting the proposed rule, which Republicans have criticized ever since it was introduced at the end of 2013.

Other IRS riders would prohibit funds from being used to target groups based on their political beliefs or individuals for exercising their First Amendment rights, according to Republicans.

The legislation would also prevent the IRS from further implementing ObamaCare, and a separate rider would bar funding for the IRS to implement the law's individual mandate.

The fiscal 2015 measure contains bad news for the IRS, but it is nothing like the fiscal 2014 measure Republicans pushed at the height of the IRS targeting controversy. That bill would have slashed the agency’s budget by 25 percent, bringing it down to $9 billion.

Financial regulators are facing leaner budgets under the spending bill as well. The Securities and Exchange Commission would receive $1.4 billion under the measure, $300 million below the president’s request. And the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which does not have its budget currently set by Congress, would fall under control of appropriators in the bill beginning in fiscal 2016.

The bill also includes a number of policy riders frequently attached to such bills in recent years by Republicans, including ones to prohibit travel to Cuba and block the use of funds for abortion in federal employee health plans. Another rider specifies that funds sent to the District of Columbia cannot be used for abortion, needle exchanges or medical marijuana programs.

One rider included in this year’s bill that was not in last year’s would prohibit funds from being used to provide a raise to the vice president and senior political appointees.

The federal court system would receive $6.7 billion under the bill, and the Small Business Administration would get $862 million. The General Services Administration would get $9.1 billion, the Federal Communications Commission would receive $323 million and the Federal Trade Commission would receive $293 million.

While the courts received a slight increase under the bill, all the other agencies are facing cuts of varying sizes under the Republican measure. 

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