U.S. Sen. James Lankford renewed his efforts to repeal the Johnson Amendment, a long-standing tax policy that prohibits religious congregations and other nonprofits from participating in partisan political activity.
Lankford and other opponents of the law say it’s a First Amendment issue related to freedom of religion and speech.
“The First Amendment right of free speech and right to practice any faith, or no faith, are foundational American values that must extend to everyone, whether they are a pastor, social worker or any charity employee or volunteer,” Lankford said.
He and several other members filed legislation last week to repeal the amendment.
Named for then-Sen. Lyndon Johnson, the amendment was part of a 1954 overhaul of the U.S. tax code. It was inserted into Section 501(c)3, which established the conditions under which nonprofit organizations do not have to pay income taxes.
The section does not prohibit nonpartisan political activity, such as voter registration or discussion of issues, and has been rarely enforced. According to an article in Real Clear Politics, only one church has ever had its tax-exempt status revoked because of the Johnson Amendment. It notes a large number of religious leaders do take political positions with apparent impunity.
Despite that, some worry that removing the amendment will fundamentally change nonprofit organizations and especially the relationship between religion and politics.
Waters of the U.S.: Public comment on the Trump administration’s proposed Waters of the U.S., known as WOTUS, will be taken Feb. 27-28 in the Wyandotte Ballroom of the Reardon Convention Center, 520 Minnesota Avenue, Kansas City, Kansas.
The Trump administration seeks to repeal a controversial WOTUS regulation formulated by the Obama administration.
Pre-registration for a three-minute slot is available through Feb. 21 at eventbrite.com. People not pre-registered may be allowed to speak on the days of the hearing as time allows.
The Environmental Protection Agency will present a WOTUS webinar limited to 2,000 participants at 2:30 p.m. Feb. 14.
More information can be found at epa.gov.
Mullin Mullings: Second District Congressman Markwayne Mullin continued fussing on social media and elsewhere about socialism, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and first-year Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
On his campaign Facebook account, mullinforcongress, the Westville Republican asked: “When Speaker Pelosi is saying there won’t be another shutdown, does that mean she’s finally coming to the table with funding for the wall? We have to protect our country and put national security as a top priority.”
On his congressional Twitter account, @repmullin, he complained about a report on Ocasio-Cortez’ Green New Deal.
“Funny how they bury this part all the way at the bottom,” Mullin tweeted after a Bloomberg story about the controversial proposal quoted him last.
“The Green New Deal, just like proposals for free college or Medicaid for All, is nothing but an empty promise that leaves American taxpayers on the hook,” Mullin said in the story.
“The Democrats’ radical agenda items like Medicare-for-all and free education for all are not only outrageous, but dangerous,” Mullin wrote in a column circulated to news outlets in his district. “The socialist Democrats are all in. They have fully embraced socialism and favor taking power away from the American people in order to give it to the federal government.”
According to news reports, Democrats are divided on national health insurance, with Pelosi among the skeptical. Some members of the caucus, and especially those recently elected, are pushing for expanding Medicaid in some form.
Earlier in the week, Mullin retweeted a Fox News story headlined “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: The Voice of an Ignorant Generation,” with the comment “It’s obvious that AOC doesn’t understand that history repeats itself. It’s just her and a very uninformed minority promoting a dangerous agenda.”
Mullin’s most confrontational tweets tend to show up on the campaign Facebook page. His Twitter account is more of a mix of standard political messaging, such as praise for President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech and tweets about his early-morning Washington workout group, which he says helps build bipartisanship.
Dots and dashes: Appearing on Fox News Friday morning, Mullin said Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren “got caught in a lie” about her American Indian heritage and should drop out of the 2020 presidential race. ... Lankford, along with Missouri Republican Roy Blunt, again filed a resolution to change Senate rules related to debate time on executive nominations. Lankford wants to shorten debate time from 30 hours to two hours on most nominations in order to speed up the process. ... Oklahoma’s congressional delegation endorsed Broken Arrow’s Donna Gradel for national teacher of the year. ... The Center for Responsive Politics reported that a record-smashing $5.7 billion was spent on the 2018 midterm elections. That’s $1.9 billion more than the previous high for a midterm, in 2014, and $500 million more than the then-record $5.3 billion spent in the 2008 presidential campaign.