By Mike Lillis - 07/19/12 03:49 PM EDT
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) pushed back hard Thursday against the notion that congressional leaders should release their tax returns, saying the standard applies only to presidential candidates.
“When I run for president of the United States, you can hold me to that standard,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol.
“The disclosure that we have is full and complete,” she added, noting that she's met all of the financial disclosure obligations required of Congress.
Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) were among the Democrats who declined to release their returns.
Pelosi on Thursday defended that position, and chastised the media for focusing on the tax-return issue instead of other issues like jobs and the looming expiration of the Bush-era tax rates.
“Let's not be silly,” she said. “This person [Romney] is running for president of the United States. His party is calling on him to release his returns. It's up to him to take the consequences of not doing it, or doing it, but not to deflect [the issue] to say, 'Well, if he has to do it, why doesn't everybody else have to do it?' Because everybody else isn't running for president of the United States, and that's the last thing I'm going to say about it.”
Pelosi argued that it's Republicans – not Democrats – who have been calling most loudly for Romney to disclose his tax returns. Yet just a day earlier, Rep. Sandy Levin (Mich.), senior Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, introduced legislation to require presidential candidates to release 10 years worth of tax returns.
“The stunning lack of transparency from someone in pursuit of the highest office in the country highlights the need to change the law to require fuller disclosure,” Levin said in a statement introducing the bill.
“For decades, presidential candidates have voluntarily provided a thorough accounting of their tax returns and finances, as they should,” he added. “But we clearly cannot continue to rely solely on the willingness of a candidate to disclose fully what the public has a right to know about the candidate’s financial record.”
President Obama’s campaign has hammered Romney over the issue, insisting he should release more of his tax forms and questioning whether he has something to hide. Obama has also attacked Romney’s work at the private equity firm Bain Capital, which Romney founded. Both lines of attack are being used by Obama to paint Romney as a politician out of touch with middle class workers.
Some Republicans have argued Romney, whose wealth is said to approach a quarter of a billion dollars, is only hurting his campaign with his refusal to release more returns.
Yet Romney so far has said he will only release his forms for 2010 and 2011. He argued this week that offering more would just give Obama’s campaign more to “distort.”
Romney's wife told ABC News this week that no more documents are forthcoming.
"We've given all that people need to know and understand about our financial situation and about how we live our life," Ann Romney said in an interview that aired Thursday.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) released only two years of his tax returns in 2008, but other candidates for president have released many more, including Romney’s own father.
George Romney volunteered 12 years of tax returns when he ran for president more than four decades ago.
Pelosi on Thursday said the issue is one for Republicans to decide.
“It's a relationship between the person running for president and the American people,” she said.
“If you release them, you tell a story. If you don't release them, you leave it up to the imagination of anybody who wants to talk about it … So it's a decision the candidate has to make.
“The longer he takes to release them,” she added, “doesn't make me sad.”
This story was updated at 12:43 p.m.