December 4, 2017; USA Today
As NPQ reported earlier this week, the US House and Senate have passed two different versions of a Republican tax reform package. The two bills now move to a conference committee that will attempt to reconcile the two versions into a single piece of legislation that will then be sent back to both the House and Senate for a final vote. If the revised bill (technically a “conference report”) is approved by both chambers, the bill will go to President Trump for his signature.
A coalition of nonprofit organizations has worked for months to oppose repeal of the Johnson Amendment, the provision of tax law enacted in 1954 to prohibit 501c3 organizations, including religious organizations, from endorsing or opposing candidates for public office. Support for the current law and opposition to weakening or repeal is also coming from religious groups and organizations like the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), which “believes the Johnson Amendment is an important safeguard for the charitable sector.”
GiveVoice.org, a website organized by the National Council of Nonprofits, hosts a “Community Letter in Support of Nonpartisanship” that more than 5,500 nonprofit organizations have signed to date. Independent Sector and the Council of Foundations have joined the National Council of Nonprofits in sending a letter signed by the CEOs of all three organizations reiterating their support for keeping tax law as it is and encouraging conferees to not include Section 5201 of the House version of the tax bill in the final conference report.
Senate and House leaders have announced their 25 conferees. Here’s the list, broken down by party and with states identified:
|Ron Wyden (OR)||Bernie Sanders (VT)|
|Maria Cantwell (WA)||Debbie Stabenow (MO)|
|Robert Menendez (NJ)||Tom Carper (DE)|
|Patty Murray (WA)|
|Orrin Hatch (UT)||Mike Enzi (WY)|
|Lisa Murkowski (AK)||John Cornyn (TX)|
|John Thune (SD)||Rob Portman (OH)|
|Tim Scott (SC)||Pat Toomey (PA)|
|House of Representatives|
|Richard Neal (MA)||Sandy Levin (MI)|
|Lloyd Doggett (TX)||Raúl Grijalva (AZ)|
|Kathy Castor (FL)|
|Kevin Brady (TX)||Devin Nunes (CA)|
|Peter Roskam (IL)||Diane Black (TN)|
|Kristi Noem (SD)|
USA Today reports that it’s likely the tax bill conference committee won’t work in the open and bipartisan way such committees historically conduct their business. No Democratic representatives or senators voted for the bills; only one GOP senator and 13 GOP House members voted against the bills. The final bill requires majority support in the House and Senate, and the GOP has a majority in both houses. Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), said Republicans are “going to pre-negotiate everything and then jam it down our throats.” In fact, informal meetings between House and Senate Republicans started before the Senate version was officially approved.
President Trump set a Christmas deadline for receiving a tax bill he can sign, which means the conference committee and all legislators have little time to get their remaining work done. If you or your organization want to make your voice heard on repeal of the Johnson Amendment or any other aspect of the tax bill, now is definitely the time.—Michael Wyland