FY2018 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Bill

the house version of the bill:

The Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) Appropriations bill for FY2018 included language that would have make it incredibly difficult for the IRS to investigate houses of worship that have violated the Johnson Amendment. It would have required consent from the IRS Commissioner for each investigation, notification to two committees in Congress and a 90-day waiting period before such investigations could commence. These hurdles would have slowed down, if not entirely halted, any investigations and further politicized them. In addition, because this special treatment applied to houses of worship and not to secular organizations, the provision likely would have violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. 


On July 13, 2017, the House Appropriations Committee took up the bill. 108 national organizations signed onto a letter telling members of the committee to oppose the inclusion of this language in the appropriations bill. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and co-sponsor Barbara Lee (D-CA) offered an amendment to strip the provision. Despite having bipartisan support, the measure failed with a vote of 24-28. The bill, including Section 116, was later approved by and passed the full committee, and was then included in the omnibus spending bill that passed the House.

the senate version of the bill:

The Senate version of the bill did not contain language affecting the Johnson Amendment. 

the final bill:

Unable to pass its fiscal year 2018 funding bills, Congress has been funding the government with bills called "continuing resolutions," (CRs) which provide funding to run the government while the House and Senate continue to hash out their final bill. The current CR was set to run out Friday, March 23, 2018. We fought to ensure that this bill did not include the House language that would weaken the Johnson Amendment. The final omnibus spending bill revealed on March 21 and passed on March 23 did not contain language to weaken the Johnson Amendment. 


The Committee Vote: 

Yes: Aguilar, Bishop, Cartwright, Clark, Cuellar, DeLauro, Dent, Kaptur, Kilmer, Lee, Lowey, McCollum, Meng, Pingree, Pocan, Price, Quigley, Royal-Allard, Ruppersbrger, Ryan, Serrano, Taylor, Viscolsky, Wasserman Schultz

No: Aderholt, Amodei, Calvert, Carter, Cole, Culberson, Diaz-Balart, Fleischmann, Fortenberry, Frelinghuysen, Granger, Graves, Harris, Herrara Beutler, Jenkins, Joyce, Moolenaar, Newhouse, Palazzo, Roby, Rogers, Rooney, Simpson, Stewart, Valadao, Womack, Yoder, Young


Watch the House Committee Debate:

What Members of the Committee said:

"Regardless of our political stripes and colors, no one wants our charities or houses of worship to be torn apart by partisan campaign politics." — Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL)

"In order to protect the integrity and independence of churches and houses of worship and faith-based charities, we need to ensure that they do not endorse or oppose political candidates and become politicized."  Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)

“The Johnson Amendment is common sense and to get rid of it now would have dire consequences for our democracy.” — Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA)

“What we do not want though is to legitimate using religious institutions as simply a conduit for political contributions or for candidate or party-centered political advocacy. . . [We should] all consult our common sense and our common experience on this matter before we take the step to bring partisan, candidate-centered politics into our churches.” — Rep. David Price (D-NC)

"The Johnson Amendment does not prevent houses of worship from speaking out about any political or social issue that they are passionate about, that they hold dear. This should be clear to all of us from churches, synagogues, mosques in our district, that engage in social justice movements and voice their well regarded opinions to us regularly." Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY)

"[The Johnson Amendment] has allowed charitable organizations to concentrate on their exempt purposes and not to be distracted or coopted by partisan campaigns. Without it, houses of worship would be exposed to political pressure to endorse candidates."  Rep. Mike Quigley  (D-IL)