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.


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 TrumpTrump says his advice to impeachment defense team is 'just be honest' Trump expands tariffs on steel and aluminum imports CNN's Axelrod says impeachment didn't come up until 80 minutes into focus group 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 WydenHillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Wyden asks NSA to investigate White House cybersecurity | Commerce withdraws Huawei rule after Pentagon objects | Warren calls on Brazil to drop Greenwald charges Wyden vows push to force release of Khashoggi assessment Wyden calls on NSA to examine White House cybersecurity following Bezos hack 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.