NJ Congressman Bill Pascrell and his fellow Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee haven’t forgotten about the fact that we never saw Trump’s tax returns. They came up with an obscure 1924 law that would give the Committee the right to pull Trump’s returns in order to see if he would benefit from the tax reform he’s proposing. Seems reasonable enough and really, who at this point would object to seeing Trump’s tax returns? The GOP members of the Committee of course, who are so afraid of Trump that they had to block the effort and voted on a party-line 23-15 against.
“In 1924, Congress put in place this statute, 6103, in our tax law, specifically to investigate conflicts of interest in the executive branch of government,” Pascrell said at the committee meeting, pointing out that the law was passed shortly after the Teapot Dome Scandal. “Following that scandal, Congress wanted a way to examine business ties in the Executive Branch of government. That is the law, Mr. Chairman.”
But the GOP Chairman’s response was this:
“My belief is that if Congress begins to use its powers to rummage around in the tax returns of the president, what prevents Congress from doing the same to average Americans?” Brady said, telling reporters that Pascrell’s request “misrepresents the legislative intent of that provision, which in fact creates confidentiality and privacy for Americans in their tax returns.”
But Brady himself has voted to use the law in the past so he’s, shockingly, a hypocrite. University of Virginia law professor George K. Yin says the objections are bullshit. The law was notably used to expose an abuse by Nixon.
Following Watergate, Congress changed the law to eliminate the president’s ability to order a disclosure. But it retained the right of its tax committees to do so as long as a disclosure served a legitimate committee purpose. Such a disclosure must be in the public’s interest, and today’s understandable concerns about Trump’s potential conflicts of interest would seem clearly to justify a congressional effort to obtain, investigate and possibly disclose to the public his tax information.
Pascrell and company need to keep pushing on this as Trump’s approval slides to oblivion. Perhaps the GOP members of the Ways and Means will develop backbone in direct correlation to such slide.