Laurel Raymond/Think Progress
Republicans on the House Ways and Means committee voted down a proposal on Tuesday that would have let Congress obtain President Donald Trump’s tax returns.
Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) first advanced the proposal in a letter to the committee’s chair on February 1st. His request that the committee obtain Trump’s tax returns is based on an obscure tax law: Section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code.
That law allows three congressional committees — House Ways and Means, Senate Finance, and the Joint Committee on Taxation — to request that the IRS disclose private tax information to the committee. The committee can then review it, and vote on whether to disclose it to the public. Both the review and disclosure must be in the public interest.
“This is the only way we ever see his tax returns.”
“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.”
Unlike all but one Presidential nominee since Nixon, Trump has not released his tax returns to the public (Gerald Ford, the one nominee who didn’t, released a summary). Trump has also, unlike every other modern president, refused to divest from his business holdings.
According to the financial disclosures that he was required to file, however, Trump has a stake in or owns 564 businesses, corporations, limited partnerships, or limited liability companies (LLCs) around the world. Many of his businesses work in or with foreign countries. Those dealings almost certainly put Trump in violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause.
Without his tax returns, however, the true extent of Trump’s financial entanglements is unknown.
“There is not one person on this committee who can say absolutely that there is no economic relationship between the President of the United States and investments in Russia. Not one. Because we don’t know,” Pascrell said in the committee meeting. “Let’s do our job. This is checks and balances, Mr. Chairman.”
Despite being rebuffed on Tuesday, Pascrell said he’s not going to drop his quest for Trump’s tax returns.
“This is going to come up over and over and over again. I’m good at that,” he told his fellow lawmakers.
He told reporters that he intended to continue submitting documents backing up his legal argument to the committee, and that he is “actively recruiting” Republican lawmakers to support his push for Trump’s tax returns.
“Nothing has resonated more with the American people” he said. “This is the only way we ever see his tax returns.”