The House voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to approve a measure designed to stop the Internal Revenue Service from implementing new rules that define what constitutes political activities for certain "social welfare" groups.
The bill is part of a week-long series of votes in the House on bills designed to curtail government abuse and address some of the best-known recent scandals at federal agencies — including the infamous "targeting" scandal at the IRS.
Here's how the vote went down:
Final tally: 243 to 176.
How many Republicans voted for it?: 229.
How many Democrats voted for it?: 14.
How many Republicans voted against it?: 0.
How many Democrats voted against it?: 176.
How many members didn't vote?: 16.
Votes Notes: As we wrote Monday and The Post's Robert Costa outlined a few weeks ago, the bills being voted on this week are part of a strategy to calm the often-divided House Republican ranks by touting proposals that have wide backing from GOP base voters.
But as today's vote on the Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act of 2014 demonstrates, the votes are also designed to put several vulnerable House Democrats on the spot by forcing them to vote with Republicans on proposals that they know swing voters back home favor.
One early signal that the bill would succeed is that its title includes the words "Stop" and "IRS." Nothing is more popular right now with conservative voters than passing bills designed to curtail the powers of the IRS — or at least give off the appearance of doing so.
Currently, the Treasury Department is pushing new rules that would define what constitutes political activities for "social welfare" groups organized under the 501(c)(4) section of the tax code. But the proposed rules have received more than 23,000 public comments, most of them critical. While conservative Republicans believe the new rules would constrain opponents of President Obama, even liberal groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, believe that the regulations could cause serious free-speech problems.
So that put 14 House Democrats on the spot Wednesday. They were Reps. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.), John Barrow (D-Ga.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Henry Cuellar (D-Tex.), Pete Gallego (D-Tex.), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.), Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.), Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.), Bill Owens (D-N.Y.), Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), Nick Rahall (D-W. Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).
McIntyre and Owens have already announced plans to retire. Peterson is rumored to be mulling an exit. Cuellar and Barrow regularly vote with Republicans on controversial legislation and Barrow is the most endangered Democrat this cycle. Barber, Kirkpatrick and Sinema and Rahall are right behind Barrow on the GOP hit list. Gallego might face a serious challenge, depending on who wins a GOP primary next week.
In a sign of the political attacks they may yet still face, the National Republican Congressional Committee issued a statement shortly after the vote targeting other vulnerable Democrats who voted against the measure. The NRCC said those Democrats voted “in a simply inexplicable fashion” and that “No one should have to worry about the government targeting Americans for their political beliefs.”
So as today's vote demonstrated, Republicans can and will show remarkable unity on bills designed to curtail the size and scope of the Obama administration. And dozens of Democrats might join them in hopes of keeping their jobs this November.