Charles Rettig testifies at his confirmation hearing in June.

Charles Rettig testifies at his confirmation hearing in June. Jacquelyn Martin / AP

Senate Confirms Corporate Tax Attorney as IRS Chief

Democrats protest Rettig’s silence on a Trump rule lessening disclosure of "dark money."

The Senate on Wednesday voted to confirm corporate tax attorney Charles Rettig to be the next commissioner of  the Internal Revenue Service.

The vote was 64-33, with Democratic opponents protesting the nominee’s implied acceptance of the Treasury Department’s new rule reducing disclosure requirements on nonprofits that give campaign money as a way of protecting donor privacy.

“With the biggest tax overhaul in a generation on the books, it’s about time that the agency charged with administering our nation’s tax laws has a confirmed commissioner,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. He called the Democrats’ objections “baseless” and political. “From implementing tax reform so that Americans continue to benefit from increased growth, job creation and wages to restoring trust in an agency complicated by scandal and mistrust, Chuck has his work cut out for him. But, he has proven that he is qualified and ready for the challenge.”

Ranking Member Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said, “Over the last several months, the Trump administration has weaponized the tax code to punish its political adversaries and benefit shadowy far-right groups that seek to buy elections.  Two months ago, just hours after Maria Butina was outed as an alleged Russian spy who sought to influence our elections, the Trump administration announced a new rule opening the floodgates to more dark money and foreign money in our politics,” he said of the guidance for IRS enforcement.

During the committee markup, Wyden raised the issue with Rettig. “I gave him an opportunity to tell the committee he’d try to fix it, but he did not,” Wyden said. “He wouldn’t even acknowledge that there is a real problem here for the cause of transparency and openness in our democracy. This new rule, they won’t be required to disclose at all.”

House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, on Thursday welcomed the vote. “Americans’ faith in the IRS over the years has vanished, and for good reason,” he said in a statement. “Riddled with scandals, the agency abused its power and lost sight of its mission of providing taxpayers with quality service.  As we continue to work with the Senate on our package of bold reforms to redesign the IRS, Mr. Rettig is just the partner we need to transform the agency to one that truly puts taxpayers first.”

Tony Reardon, national president of the National Treasury Employees Union, congratulated Rettig. NTEU, which represents 70,000 Internal Revenue Service employees, “is eager to maintain open communication with agency leadership about making sure the IRS workforce has the resources it needs to carry out the agency’s important missions,” Reardon said.