In a blow to President Donald Trump and right-wing evangelicals, the Senate parliamentarian has blocked language repealing the Johnson Amendment and allowing churches and 501(c)3 nonprofits to endorse candidates and engage in partisan politics from inclusion in the tax bill.
The move was confirmed by Sen. Ron Wyden’s (D-Ore.), The Hill reports. Wyden said that the Senate parliamentarian had determined the inclusion of the Johnson Amendment repeal did not meet Senate rules that require elements of the tax bill to have something to do with the budget.
Republican Senator James Lankford (Okla.) said he was “disappointed” that the measure was not allowed into the tax bill.
“The federal government and the IRS should never have the ability, through our tax code, to limit free speech; this tax reform bill was an appropriate place to address this historic tax problem,” he said in a statement shared with The Hill.
“Nonprofits are allowed to lobby Congress or their local elected officials, but the ambiguity of the current tax code keeps non-profits in constant fear that they might have crossed a line that no other organization has to consider,” he added.
The repeal of the Johnson Amendment was originally added to the House-passed bill last month, though it was not in the Senate bill.
The proposal was a major priority for President Trump, who vowed to repeal the amendment during his 2016 presidential campaign, saying it would “give our churches their voice back.”
Specifically, the House bill would have allowed nonprofits to engage in political speech in the ordinary course of its activities.
The Johnson Amendment, named for then-Sen. Lyndon Johnson (D-Texas), has been part of the tax code since 1954. It prohibits churches and other tax-exempt organizations from participating in some political activity.