Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., was confirmed Thursday as U.S. Ambassador to China, which could prolong an investigation of the Internal Revenue Service’s handling of tax-exempt applications, along with tax reform efforts.

Baucus’s committee is one of several that have been investigating the IRS since last year over how it gave extra scrutiny to applications for tax–exempt status under Section 501(c)4 of the Tax Code from groups with terms such as “Tea Party,” “Patriot,” “9/12,” “Progressive,” and “Occupy” in their names. The IRS and Treasury Department issued initial guidance last November on how the IRS should decide on granting tax-exempt status to so-called “social welfare” groups that are also involved in political activity. But the proposed rules have reignited a furor among groups that claim the IRS is trying to stifle legitimate political activity.

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