Senate panel advances Trump's pick for key IRS role

Senate panel advances Trump's pick for key IRS role
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The Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday advanced for a second time President TrumpDonald John TrumpGillibrand backs federal classification of third gender: report Former Carter pollster, Bannon ally Patrick Caddell dies at 68 Heather Nauert withdraws her name from consideration for UN Ambassador job MORE's nominee for a key IRS position after the nominee didn't get a vote on the Senate floor in the last Congress.

The panel approved the nomination of Michael Desmond to be IRS chief counsel by a vote of 26-2.

Desmond is a California tax lawyer who has previously worked in the Treasury Department's Office of Tax Policy and the Justice Department's Tax Division.

If confirmed, Desmond will play a key role in IRS regulations. The IRS has been busy developing regulations to implement the tax law Trump signed in 2017.

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The IRS chief counsel role is one of only two positions at the agency that requires Senate confirmation. The IRS has not had a Senate-confirmed chief counsel since Trump took office.

The Finance Committee had previously advanced Desmond's nomination in August, but the full Senate did not take it up, leading Trump to resubmit the nomination to the Senate earlier this year.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyHigh stakes as Trump, Dems open drug price talks Senate approves border bill that prevents shutdown Grassley raises voice after McConnell interrupts Senate speech MORE (R-Iowa) and ranking member Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHigh stakes as Trump, Dems open drug price talks Dem lawmaker: 'Trump's presidency is the real national emergency' Dems introduce bill to take gender-specific terms out of tax code to make it LGBT-inclusive MORE (D-Ore.) both said Desmond was qualified for the position.

Wyden also used the Finance Committee's meeting to warn the administration against taking executive action to index capital gains taxes to inflation. Many conservative groups are pressing the administration to take such action, arguing that it would help to grow the economy. But Wyden argued that doing so would "be a special break for the fortunate few."

Two Democrats on the committee voted against Desmond: Sens. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezWilliam Barr is right man for the times This week: Trump delivers State of the Union amid wall fight BuzzFeed story has more to say about media than the president MORE (N.J.) and Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehousePence met with silence after mentioning Trump in Munich speech New battle lines in war over Trump’s judicial picks Dems probing whether NRA made illegal contributions to Trump MORE (R.I.). Menendez has strongly opposed IRS proposed rules that take aim at blue states' efforts to circumvent the cap on the state and local tax deduction in Trump's tax law.

The Finance Committee also advanced three other nominees that the committee had approved in the last Congress, but didn't receive a vote by the full Senate.

The Committee advanced Elizabeth Darling's nomination to be commissioner on children, youth and families at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) by a largely party-line vote of 16-12; Michael Faulkender to be an assistant secretary at the Treasury Department by a 26-2 vote; and Jeffrey Kessler to be an assistant secretary in the Commerce Department by a voice vote.

Wyden said he would put a hold on Darling's nomination, objecting to HHS's recent approval of a waiver for organizations participating in South Carolina's foster care program that uses religious criteria in choosing prospective foster parents.

Wyden said the ruling gave South Carolina "a green light for discrimination in its foster care programs" and will reduce the number of homes available for foster children.

But South Carolina Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottSenate approves border bill that prevents shutdown Senate passes bill to make lynching a federal crime Partnerships paving the way to sustain and support Historically Black Colleges and Universities MORE (R) said he disagreed with Wyden's comments on the HHS ruling.

"The decision by HHS was to expand options" for adoption, Scott said, adding that he thought there should be options in adoption that are religious in nature.