Ander Crenshaw's Bill Cutting the IRS Passes House Despite Veto Threat
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The U.S. House passed a bill from a Florida congressman cutting the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) budget, hoping it will restrain that agency from further targeting of political groups, even as the White House issued a veto threat.
U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., the chairman of the House Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, managed a bill cutting the IRS’s funding into the Fiscal Year 2015 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Bill.
Crenshaw’s bill would include $21.29 billion in funding, below the $21.85 billion from 2014 or the $23.54 billion requested by President Barack Obama. Crenshaw’s proposal cuts $388 million from the U.S. Department of the Treasury and strips $341 million from the IRS. Obama proposed an additional $153 billion for the IRS than Crenshaw’s proposed $10.95 billion. The bill also keeps the U.S. Postal Service delivering mail six days a week, sends $7.09 billion to the federal judiciary, stops the IRS from implementing the tax provisions mandated by Obama’s health-care law, ensures federal funds are not used to cover health insurance providing abortions, and stops the District of Columbia from using funds for abortion and the decriminalization of marijuana.
The bill passed the full House on Wednesday on a 228-195 vote which fell mostly on party lines with six Democrats crossing over to back the measure and four Republicans opposing it. The Florida delegation voted on party lines, with all of the Republicans voting to support it and all of the Democrats opposing it.
“When your report card is nothing but a long list of bad grades, you should not be rewarded. This legislation forces the Internal Revenue Service back to the books for some homework -- lots of it -- to clean up its act,” said Crenshaw after the vote. “In that process, Americans received a commitment from Congress today to hold the Internal Revenue Service accountable for every taxpayer dollar it spends, to protect constitutional rights, and to rein in out-of-control spending.”
Crenshaw noted recent IRS abuses including targeting conservative and tea party groups and noted his bill would help keep the agency from being used to fund President Barack Obama’s health-care law.
“By cutting IRS funding to its lowest levels since 2003, the bill forces the agency to focus on its core mission,” Crenshaw said. “No more meddling in Americans’ health care, suppressing free speech of nonprofits, targeting groups based on political belief, or squandering money on bonuses for tax cheats, silly videos and lavish conferences.
“With so many troubles afoot, the IRS should not be in the health-care business,” Crenshaw added. “That’s why the bill expressly prohibits the use of funds or additional funding for the implementation of Obamacare. Moreover, to protect Americans from having their constitutional rights abused, we’ve prohibited the use of funding for targeting groups based on political belief.
“I want to thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle who supported this bill,” said Crenshaw in conclusion. “In large and small communities across this country, it’s fair to say that you don’t get rewarded for poor performance. The same must hold true for the federal government. We have a long way to go, but I am proud to have helped begun to put the Internal Revenue Service on track.”
Crenshaw’s vice chairman, U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., also praised the bill, saying it would rein in the IRS and help small businesses.
“By thoughtfully reducing wasteful spending on ineffective and inadequate agencies like the Internal Revenue Service, this bill is able to provide funds for programs that encourage job growth and help small businesses, like the Small Business Administration,” Diaz-Balart said on Wednesday after the bill passed. “Scandal after scandal continues to emerge from the IRS, and we must make sure that the agency’s abuse and political targeting practices are finally put to an end. The bill also includes a provision that would put the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) under the jurisdiction of the Appropriations Committee so that Congress and the American people can have oversight over the agency instead of allowing it to frivolously spend money. A provision included to eliminate surplus properties and consolidate space will reduce the General Services Administration’s (GSA) unnecessary and unused properties. Requiring agencies like the IRS, the CFPB, and the GSA to extensively record and report their spending allows for diligent oversight to avoid mismanagement and squandering by corrupt senior officials.
“I congratulate Chairman Crenshaw on his leadership in this bill’s passage and thank him for working with me on the many priorities in this bill that will greatly impact our constituents in Florida,” Diaz-Balart added.
Crenshaw’s measure also included an amendment from U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., which looks to stop the District of Columbia’s restrictive gun laws.
“Criminals, by definition, don’t care about laws,” Massie said. “They will get guns any way they can. Strict gun control laws do nothing but prevent good people from being able to protect themselves and their families in the event of a robbery, home invasion, or other crime. Studies indicate that murder rates rise following bans on firearms.
“It is time for Congress to step in and stop the D.C. government’s harassment and punishment of law-abiding citizens who simply want to defend themselves,” Massie added
Massie’s amendment drew the ire of Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-District of Columbia, the nonvoting member of the House elected by the District of Columbia.
“Rep. Massie, who claims at every turn to support local control of local affairs, is using the power of the federal government to overturn the laws of a local jurisdiction,” said Holmes Norton. “Public safety is the most local of issues.”
Other Democrats agreed with Holmes Norton that Crenshaw’s bill included too much outside its original intent.
"If the American people want to know what's wrong with Washington, this year's Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act would be exhibit A,” said U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y. “Instead of trying to protect consumers and investors, the bill completely undermines those protections, and includes half a dozen irrelevant policy riders affecting everything from women's health to D.C.'s marijuana laws.
"This bill represents the latest Republican attempt to undermine the enforcement of Dodd-Frank and end protections for consumers,” Maloney added. “The bill denies the funding needed by the Securities and Exchange Commission to root out fraud and abuse. It also eliminates the independent funding stream for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, moving us one step closer to the Republican goal of eliminating one of the few advocates middle-class families can rely on when purchasing financial products.
"I am also disappointed that this bill attempts to legislate through an appropriations bill with several irrelevant policy riders,” Maloney said in conclusion. “From denying federal employees access to constitutionally protected abortion services to interfering with Washington D.C.'s right to home rule, the bill is littered with policy riders that have no place in an appropriations bill."
The White House left no room for doubt on Monday it would veto Crenshaw’s bill if it passes the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate.
“The administration strongly opposes House passage of HR 5016, making appropriations for financial services and general government for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2015," the White House noted in a statement of policy. “The bill impedes implementation of the Affordable Care Act, undermines critical components of Wall Street reform, and fails to provide the resources necessary to provide robust taxpayer services and improve tax enforcement. Further, the legislation includes ideological and political provisions that are beyond the scope of funding legislation. If the president were presented with HR 5016, his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill.”
Conservatives in the House show no sign of backing down.
“This administration has used the IRS as a weapon against citizens who disagree with him (Obama) politically and he’s used executive orders as a weapon against a Congress that disagrees with him legislatively,” U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., said. “This bill takes away his ability to do both.”
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org.