House Republicans early Wednesday morning released a spending bill that would keep most IRS funding frozen for the rest of the fiscal year, restrict the ability to award bonuses, and force the agency to spend the small amount of new money it gets on taxpayer services, fraud detection and cybersecurity.
The bill keeps up the GOP's long-running fight against the beleaguered tax agency, which in 2013 was found to be targeting conservative groups in a way that some Republicans say may have tipped the 2012 presidential election toward President Obama.
Republicans have gotten their revenge not just through brutal oversight hearings, but by cutting or freezing IRS funding, and the latest spending bill continues that pattern.
Obama had asked for a dramatic funding boost for the IRS, and the IRS itself had said it could use another $2 billion, including nearly $500 million just to implement the tax aspects of Obamacare. But under the new bill that's expected to pass, those requests were ignored.
Instead, IRS funding would stay at 2015 spending levels, $10.9 billion, plus another $290 million that it would have to spend helping taxpayers and beefing up its fraud and cybersecurity efforts. The House Appropriations Committee said total spending comes in at $1.7 billion below Obama's request.
It also includes specific language to prevent all bonus awards at the IRS, or to rehire former employees, unless the IRS takes into account employee conduct and tax compliance. The IRS is noted for having several hundred workers with overdue taxes that still get bonus awards, prompting outrage from congressional Republicans.
The bill continues to take direct aim at the targeting scandal, in which the IRS slow-walked applications from conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. Among other things, it says the IRS isn't allowed to consider the political or ideological beliefs of groups.
It also dings the IRS for wasting money on lavish conferences and silly videos, like the "Star Trek" parody it made that cost tens of thousands of dollars.
"None of the funds made available to the Internal Revenue Service by this Act may be used to make a video unless the Service-Wide Video Editorial Board determines in advance that making the video is appropriate, taking into account the cost, topic, tone, and purpose of the video," the bill reads.
The bill also gives the IRS no new money to implement Obamacare, despite the IRS request.
The spending bill was released early Wednesday, and lawmakers are hoping to pass it this week with Democratic support.
This story was corrected to note that bonuses are not fully prohibited, and can be awarded only if the IRS first considers the conduct and tax compliance of an employee.