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) TesterNative American advocates question 2020 Democrats' commitment House Democrats targeting six more Trump districts for 2020 Budget deal sparks scramble to prevent shutdown MORE (D-Mont.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenWyden blasts FEC Republicans for blocking probe into NRA over possible Russia donations Wyden calls for end to political ad targeting on Facebook, Google Ex-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity MORE (D-Ore.), was approved by 50-49 vote. Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsAn ode to Joe Manchin's patriotism on his birthday Susan Collins challenger hit with ethics complaints over reimbursements Overnight Health Care: Insurance lobby chief calls Biden, Sanders health plans 'similarly bad' | Trump officials appeal drug price disclosure ruling | Study finds 1 in 7 people ration diabetes medicine due to cost MORE (R-Maine) joined with Democrats in supporting the resolution, and Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisThe United States broken patent system is getting worse Gun reform groups to pressure GOP senators with rallies in all 50 states To cash in on innovation, remove market barriers for advanced energy technologies 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 TrumpGraham: America must 'accept the pain that comes in standing up to China' Weld 'thrilled' more Republicans are challenging Trump New data challenges Trump's economic narrative 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 McConnellTwo years after Harvey's devastation, the wake-up call has not been heeded McGrath releases ad blasting McConnell with coal miners in Kentucky: 'Which side are you on?' Prediction: 2020 election is set to be hacked, if we don't act fast MORE (R-Ky.).

--Updated at 2:22 p.m.