NRO spoke with a number of Senate Democrats before their caucus lunch today and, with a few exceptions, most were uninterested in opining on the proposed IRS rule changes to limit political activity of 501(c)(4) groups, which have angered many congressional Republicans and conservative activists (and some leftists, too).
When I asked Senator Dianne Feinstein, of California, about the change, she said, “You’re over my pay grade!”
Retiring Michigan senator Carl Levin said he was unaware of the proposed rule change. And Senator Ben Cardin, of Maryland, also said he hadn’t seen the rule. “I’d have to take a look at them,” he said. Senator Patty Murray, the Washington senator who chairs the budget committee, was in the same boat. “Uh, I have not had a chance to look at that yet,” she said. And Montana senator Jon Tester also said he hadn’t seen the rule.
All the Democrats familiar with the new IRS rule, however, supported it strongly. Democratic majority whip Dick Durbin said he’s for the proposal.
“What was supposed to be a tax operation that had little or no political involvement is now almost exclusively political,” he said.
Senator Barbara Mikulski, who chairs the appropriations committee, defended the proposed change.
“I think the IRS needs to implement a proper framework where people were shopping using 501(c)(4) loopholes,” she said. “So we support the initiatives.”
Senate Republicans have introduced legislation with 40 cosponsors blocking the proposed rule change. Minority leader Mitch McConnell spoke against the change on the Senate floor this morning, calling on the IRS commissioner to work with Republicans against the rule.
“But if he doesn’t, he should know that we are prepared go to the mat to defend the First Amendment rights of our constituents and neighbors – and that we will continue to do so until those rights are safe once again,” McConnell said.