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) TesterSanders, Ocasio-Cortez back 'end the forever war' pledge Dems wrestle over how to vote on ‘Green New Deal’ White House pleads with Senate GOP on emergency declaration MORE (D-Mont.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenTreasury expands penalty relief to more taxpayers Overnight Health Care: Senators seek CBO input on preventing surprise medical bills | Oversight panel seeks OxyContin documents | Pharmacy middlemen to testify on prices | Watchdog warns air ambulances can put patients at 'financial risk' Senate panel to hear from pharmacy middlemen on drug prices MORE (D-Ore.), was approved by 50-49 vote. Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate GOP poised to go 'nuclear' on Trump picks Overnight Health Care: CDC pushes for expanding HIV testing, treatment | Dem group launches ads attacking Trump on Medicare, Medicaid cuts | Hospitals, insurers spar over surprise bills | O'Rourke under pressure from left on Medicare for all Dem group launches ads attacking Trump's 'hypocrisy on Medicare and Medicaid cuts' MORE (R-Maine) joined with Democrats in supporting the resolution, and Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisOvernight Health Care: CDC pushes for expanding HIV testing, treatment | Dem group launches ads attacking Trump on Medicare, Medicaid cuts | Hospitals, insurers spar over surprise bills | O'Rourke under pressure from left on Medicare for all Dem group launches ads attacking Trump's 'hypocrisy on Medicare and Medicaid cuts' Trump keeps tight grip on GOP 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 TrumpSenate GOP budget ignores Trump, cuts defense Trump says he'll nominate Stephen Moore to Fed White House: ISIS territory in Syria has been 100 percent eliminated MORE would likely veto the resolution.

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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 McConnellTrump: Green New Deal 'the most preposterous thing' and 'easy to beat' 2020 Dems avoid this year's AIPAC conference GOP eager to exploit Dem court-packing fight MORE (R-Ky.).

--Updated at 2:22 p.m.