What The Bill Does:
Section 116 of the Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) Appropriations bill, which provides funding for the District of Columbia and various federal agencies, including the IRS, would make it incredibly difficult for the IRS to investigate churches that have violated the Johnson Amendment. It would require 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 slow down, if not entirely halt, any investigations and further politicize them. In addition, because this special treatment applies to houses of worship and not to secular organizations, the provision likely violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
the Status of the Bill:
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 does not contain language affecting the Johnson Amendment.
We are awaiting Congress' next steps in passing their spending bills.
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