Senate votes to overturn IRS guidance limiting donor disclosure

The Senate on Wednesday approved a Democratic resolution that would overturn IRS guidance reducing the amount of donor information that certain tax-exempt groups have to provide to the agency.

The measure, sponsored by Sens. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterInternal poll shows tight battle in Montana House race Bipartisan Senate group offers bill to strengthen watchdog law after Trump firings Senate confirms Trump's watchdog for coronavirus funds MORE (D-Mont.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenTrump administration to impose tariffs on French products in response to digital tax Mnuchin: Next stimulus bill must cap jobless benefits at 100 percent of previous income Congress must act now to fix a Social Security COVID-19 glitch and expand, not cut, benefits MORE (D-Ore.), was approved by 50-49 vote. Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSara Gideon wins Democratic race to challenge Susan Collins The Hill's Campaign Report: Key races take shape in Alabama, Texas, Maine Illinois House Republican leader won't attend GOP convention in Florida: 'It's not going to be a safe environment' MORE (R-Maine) joined with Democrats in supporting the resolution, and Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisConservative group launches ad campaign for Rep. Roger Marshall in Kansas Senate race The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Argentum - All eyes on Florida as daily COVID-19 cases hit 15K Democrats seek to tie GOP candidates to Trump, DeVos MORE (R-N.C.) didn’t vote.

The measure now moves to the House, but a GOP aide said House Republicans aren't planning to hold a vote on it this year. Even if the House approves it, President TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump pitches Goya Foods products on Twitter Sessions defends recusal: 'I leave elected office with my integrity intact' Former White House physician Ronny Jackson wins Texas runoff MORE would likely veto the resolution.


Tester and Wyden offered the resolution under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which allows lawmakers to disapprove of recent guidance from federal agencies. Senators can make a motion to proceed to a CRA resolution if the measure has written support from at least 30 senators.

The IRS and Treasury Department in July released guidance that ended a requirement for certain tax-exempt groups to provide the IRS with the names and addresses of major donors on an annual basis. Groups that no longer have to provide the information include social-welfare organizations such as Americans for Prosperity, the National Rifle Association and the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as labor unions and business groups.

Democrats have been strongly opposed to the guidance and are concerned it could lead to an influx of “dark money” donations by foreign governments in U.S. politics.

“The rule change the Trump administration pushed through this summer is not about sunlight, it’s all about darkness. It’s about secrecy,” Wyden said Wednesday. “It’s about giving the well-connected even more of a say in how American government works.”

Tester said the Trump administration’s policy “created another safe haven for this country’s wealthiest donors to hide in the shadows while they pull the levers of power in our democracy.”

The administration and GOP lawmakers have cheered the guidance, saying it helps protect taxpayer privacy, is not needed for tax enforcement and helps prevent taxpayers from being targeted for their political beliefs.

“In a climate that is increasingly hostile to certain kinds of political expression and open debate, the last thing Washington needs to do is to chill the exercise of free speech and add to the sense of intimidation,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSara Gideon wins Democratic race to challenge Susan Collins Schumer pushes for elimination of SALT deduction cap in next coronavirus relief bill Dunford withdraws from consideration to chair coronavirus oversight panel MORE (R-Ky.).

--Updated at 2:22 p.m.