House Dem forces GOP to take recorded vote on Trump tax returns

A House Democratic lawmaker attempted Monday to force a House floor vote on a resolution to request President Trump’s tax returns, but the effort failed on a party line vote, 229-185, with two Republicans voting "present."

The move was the latest in a series of Democratic efforts to push Congress to request Trump’s tax returns, and Democrats demanded a roll call vote to force Republicans to go on the record. 

The two Republicans who voted present were Reps. Walter Jones (N.C.) and Mark Sanford (S.C.). Sanford is one of the Republican lawmakers who has in the past called for Trump to release his returns.

After the vote, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) fired at the GOP. 

“Tonight, House Republicans made themselves accomplices to hiding President Trump’s tax returns from the American people," she said. 

“Our security and our democracy have been endangered by Russia’s clear influence on the Trump Administration. The American people deserve the truth about Russia’s personal, political and financial grip on President Trump.  If there’s nothing there, then what are Republicans afraid of?

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) offered a resolution that would have directed the House to request 10 years of Trump’s tax returns, have the House Ways and Means Committee review them in a closed session and then vote to send the information in the returns to the full House.

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Under federal tax law, the chairmen of the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees and the Joint Committee on Taxation can request tax returns from Treasury to be considered in a closed meeting.

The resolution would also direct the House to “support transparency in government and the longstanding tradition of Presidents and Presidential candidates disclosing their tax returns.”

Pascrell read the text of his resolution on the House floor Monday evening, drawing a standing ovation from other Democratic lawmakers.

“Let’s shine a bright light on the president’s conflicts together,” Pascrell said after the bill was read. “We as a Congress and the broader American public can judge whether his decisions are being made for himself, his business interests, or for the greater good of the American people.”

Pascrell attempted to offer the resolution as a “privileged” measure. Under House rules, privileged resolutions have to be acted on within two legislative days.

But Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), the lawmaker presiding over the House, ruled that the resolution wasn’t actually privileged. Pascrell appealed the ruling, and lawmakers voted to table Pascrell’s appeal.

Democrats have expressed a desire to see the returns in order to learn more about the president’s conflicts of interest, because he has not sold his businesses. They have also argued that viewing Trump’s tax returns could be helpful in investigating Russia’s influence in the presidential election.

Trump was the first major-party presidential nominee in decades to refuse to release his tax returns. He frequently said that he wouldn’t make his returns public until the IRS finished auditing him. However, the IRS has said that an audit doesn’t prevent people from releasing their own tax information.

Some Republican lawmakers have also expressed interest in Trump releasing his returns. And Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsBipartisan group of lawmakers aim to reform US sugar program A bipartisan bridge opens between the House and Senate Gaming the odds of any GOP tax bill getting signed into law MORE (R-Maine) said she was open to Congress issuing a subpoena for the returns during its probe into Russian involvement in the election.

But House GOP chairmen have been cool about the idea of seeking Trump’s tax returns. When House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) was asked earlier Monday if he would subpoena Trump’s returns, he said, “No, we’re not going to do that.”

Pascrell sent a letter earlier this month to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyOvernight Health Care: Initial Senate tax bill doesn't repeal ObamaCare mandate | 600K sign up for ObamaCare in first four days | Feds crack down on opioid trafficking Overnight Finance: Senate GOP unveils different approach on tax reform | House tax bill heads to floor | House leaders eye vote next week | AT&T denies pressure for CNN sale GOP tax bill clears hurdle, heads to House floor MORE (R-Texas) asking him to request Trump’s tax returns from the Treasury Secretary so that they could be reviewed by the tax-writing panel in a closed session.

Brady responded by telling reporters that he would not seek Trump’s tax returns, citing privacy concerns.

"My belief is that if Congress begins to use its powers to rummage around in the tax returns of a president, what prevents Congress from doing the same to average Americans," he said.

The day after Brady made those comments, Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) offered an amendment to the Ways and Means Committee’s oversight plan that would have directed Brady to request Trump’s tax returns. But the committee voted against the amendment on a party-line vote.

Pascrell isn't the only House Democrat this week trying to force a vote that would begin the process of investigating Trump.

The House Judiciary Committee will consider a resolution from Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday that would demand the Justice Department to hand over documents regarding Trump's business conflicts of interest and possible ties to Russia.

Nadler invoked a rarely used procedure that automatically triggers a House floor vote if the resolution isn't considered in committee within 14 legislative days.

As with Pascrell's measure, GOP members of the Judiciary Committee are expected to vote to prevent Nadler's resolution from moving forward.

Cristina Marcos contributed.