House passes measure blocking IRS from revoking churches' tax-exempt status over political activity

House passes measure blocking IRS from revoking churches' tax-exempt status over political activity
© Greg Nash

The House passed a measure Thursday to block the IRS from using funds revoking the tax-exempt status of churches that participate in political campaigns.

The legislation limits the agency from rescinding the groups' tax-exempt status and requires the express approval of the IRS commissioner to do so.

The policy rider was included in a funding package "mini-bus" that passed 217 to 199, largely along party lines.

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The new measure appears to target the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits religious groups and churches from getting involved in political activities.

Many Republicans and the religious right have long railed against the Johnson Amendment, and President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Democrats wary of handing Trump a win on infrastructure MORE promised last year to “totally destroy” it.

The National Council of Nonprofits tried to pressure lawmakers not to include the language in the legislation brought to the floor.

"It's now impossible for Congress and the White House to deny their objective: to politicize the trusted charitable nonprofit community by authorizing unlimited, unfettered and untraceable political money to flow through the nonprofit sector to benefit partisan special interests," said Tim Delaney, the head of the National Council of Nonprofits.

"Charitable nonprofits are not in the business of partisan politics and are not here to be used to hide or launder political money.”

Politico noted that the measure will likely face pushback in the Senate: Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenIRS audit rate down in fiscal 2018 Oregon man sentenced after threatening to chop off Dem senator's tongue House to vote on retirement bill next week MORE (D-Ore.), the top Democrat on the Senate’ Finance Committee, promised to “use every tool at my disposal” to stop Senate Republicans from including it in their version of the bill.

The measure was also passed just days after the Treasury Department said it would not longer require some tax-exempt groups to disclose their donors to the IRS.

Updated: 9:53 p.m.