The Senate last week passed a package of four appropriations bills that included $11.3 billion for the IRS but did not include a provision in the House-passed version that would weaken enforcement of the Johnson Amendment.
The Johnson Amendment, a decades-old prohibition on churches and charities getting involved in political campaigns, has been a target of House conservatives and the Trump administration. House Republicans tried unsuccessfully to repeal the Johnson Amendment in last year’s tax code overhaul, but it was ultimately stripped from the final bill to assure passage in the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) are not allowing any controversial riders on funding bills and are earning praise from their Democratic colleagues in doing so.
“This is the way the Senate is supposed to work: regular order,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said last week. “The House, unfortunately, is pursuing a different path. They are taking up partisan bills filled with poison pill riders that cannot and will not pass the Senate. If our progress is to continue, the bills that come out of conference must be bills that can pass the Senate, which means they must be free of poison pills.”
Nonprofit organizations have vehemently defended the Johnson Amendment as a critical check to maintain public trust in charities and other donor-dependent groups.
“It is refreshing to see our elected officials choosing to press pause on partisan bickering to pass an appropriations bill without a controversial and corrupting policy rider that would have politicized charitable nonprofits, houses of worship and foundations,” said Tim Delaney, president and CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits. “We hope this common-sense approach can be carried into the conference committee.”