What's Holding Up Ukraine Aid Bill In Congress? Anger Over IRS

Mar 13, 2014
Originally published on March 13, 2014 1:38 pm

With members of the House and Senate scrapping over a Ukraine aid bill, Republicans say a magic bullet could break the logjam.

It has nothing to do with the former Soviet republic, its ability to withstand Russia's military intervention in Crimea, or this weekend's referendum in the Ukrainian territory.

It has everything to do with conservatives' fury at the IRS, which they say has waged a partisan, and unconstitutional, war against President Obama's opponents.

First, there was the grindingly slow, intrusive scrutiny the agency gave to Tea Party and other groups seeking tax-exempt status as 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations. The IRS gave similar treatment to liberal groups, though not nearly as many of them. And then, last year, the IRS proposed new rules that would make it harder for groups to veer from their social welfare missions into electoral politics. Conservatives call it a vendetta targeting them. Then again, liberal 501(c)(4)s are against the proposed rules, too.

This matters — to American politicians if not beleaguered Ukrainians — because social welfare groups are the hot item in campaign finance; they get to raise unlimited contributions from donors they don't have to disclose. So far, conservatives have a big advantage in this realm of secretly funded politics.

But back to Ukraine. The financial package for Ukraine itself has strong support in Congress. But Democrats want to add another element, boosting the lending power of the International Monetary Fund. Many Republicans never liked the IMF, but they might be persuaded to go along on the bill if it also includes a provision forcing the IRS to stop work on its new regulations.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, said Tuesday, "To get it passed on the floor, the (c)(4) issue is going to have to be dealt with."

He said House Speaker John Boehner is "not going to bring it up on the House floor unless the (c)(4) issue is dealt with. But then maybe those tied together is what pulls through the IMF piece."

It may also be what pulls through the Ukraine aid, which was the original point.

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