The House and Senate passed a huge $1.5 trillion spending bill that will fund the government through September. But it was a long road to get there.
H.R. 2471 was passed by the Senate but given back to the House with changes in January. Lawmakers made revisions and deals behind closed doors, but held on to the 2,741 page bill until just hours before the vote was set to take place on March 9, the Heritage Action reported.
Once the bill was released, negotiations continued. Republicans were unhappy about the $15.6 billion in the bill allocated for continuing the fight against COVID-19, so Democrats scrapped that at the last moment in order to push the vote on the bill through, PBS News Hour reported.
There was urgency to this bill, as it kept funding the government, which was just days away from running out of funding from the previous stopgap bill that continued to provide until March 11, NBC News reported.
There were a slew of other things that were funded in this bill, but most people don’t want to take time to read 2,471 pages to find out just where all the $1.5 trillion is going.
The funding for Ukraine received all the fanfare of this bill, but across the board, there were significant funding increases.
There was $730 billion in non-defense funding, a $46 billion, or 6.7 percent, increase over fiscal year 2021. Then there was $782 billion in defense funding, which is a $42 billion, 5.6 percent increase from fiscal year 2021, the House Appropriations Committee reported.
One particular funding increase was tucked away on page 485. The Internal Revenue Service was slated to receive $12.6 billion in funding.
This is a $675 million increase from fiscal year 2021 and the largest increase in funding that the IRS has gotten since 2001.
According to the House Appropriations Committee, this money is for the IRS to go after big corporations and the wealthy.
“The legislation…Rebuilds the Internal Revenue Service to finally crack down on big corporations and the wealthy who aren’t paying their fair share and to provide better customer service to working families navigating the tax system,” the committee wrote.
The language of the bill itself makes the funding for the IRS sound less extreme.
It’s couched in terms of being “necessary expenses for tax enforcement activities of the Internal Revenue Service to determine and collect owed taxes, to provide legal and litigation support, to conduct criminal investigations, to enforce criminal statutes related to violations of internal revenue laws and other financial crimes.”
But the breakdown of funding shows that the largest amount of money is going to “enforcement.”
Only $2.8 billion will go to Taxpayer Services, which is the broad umbrella for things like Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Matching Grants Program, Low Income Taxpayer Clinic, the Taxpayer Advocate, Tax Counseling for the Elderly and general customer service.
But $5.4 billion will go to enforcement, which means the IRS can beef up its Criminal Investigation Division. That’s not necessarily bad, unless politicians use it to plague the corporations they don’t like. And from the language already put forth by the House Appropriations Committee, that seems to be the goal for some.
The one saving grace added in the bill is the stipulation that the IRS is not allowed to target individuals or groups for beliefs.
The IRS is not allowed to target any citizens “for exercising any right guaranteed under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.”
“None of the funds made available in this Act may be used by the Internal Revenue Service to target groups for regulatory scrutiny based on their ideological beliefs,” the bill continued.
This is a glimmer of hope, but giving the IRS this much money is giving it more power.
And the IRS is certainly not above being used as a political weapon — no matter what this particular spending bill may stipulate.
The IRS has a long history of targeting Americans for political views and being used by those in power as a political weapon.
Historically presidents, such as FDR, Nixon, JFK and Johnson, have all reportedly used the IRS to go after political enemies.
As ABC News reported back in 2013, “If you think the IRS’s targeting of Americans for their political views is something new, think again.”
In the past decade particularly, the IRS has shown it is not afraid to target political organizations, no matter the party.
Under the Obama administration, the IRS got embroiled in controversies over targeting political organizations with names like “Tea Party” or “patriot,” as well as organizations like “Green Energy,” “Occupy” or “Progressive,” the New York Times reported.
Instances, such as these, of the IRS being used as a political weapon is why Republican Sen. Mike Braun from Indiana introduced the “Don’t Weaponize the IRS Act” in 2021. But this act has not made any progress.
So, when Congress allows a bill that will give billions to the IRS, there should be red flags or questions at the very least.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.
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