GOP rejects Dem effort to demand Trump's tax returns
© Greg Nash

For the eighth time in the last three months, House Republicans on Wednesday voted down an effort by Democrats to make President TrumpDonald John TrumpOvernight Health Care: US hits 10,000 coronavirus deaths | Trump touts 'friendly' talk with Biden on response | Trump dismisses report on hospital shortages as 'just wrong' | Cuomo sees possible signs of curve flattening in NY We need to be 'One America,' the polling says — and the politicians should listen Barr tells prosecutors to consider coronavirus risk when determining bail: report MORE’s tax returns available to Congress.

The House rejected a resolution authored by House Democratic Caucus Vice Chairwoman Linda Sánchez (Calif.) directing the committee with jurisdiction over the tax code in a procedural vote that fell mostly along party lines.

“The American people have the right to know whether or not their President is operating under conflicts of interest related to international affairs, tax reform, government contracts, or otherwise,” the resolution states. 

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Two Republicans who have called on Trump to release his tax returns didn’t vote with the rest of their party. Rep. Walter JonesWalter Beaman JonesExperts warn Georgia's new electronic voting machines vulnerable to potential intrusions, malfunctions Georgia restores 22,000 voter registrations after purge Stacey Abrams group files emergency motion to stop Georgia voting roll purge MORE (N.C.) sided with Democrats, while Rep. Mark SanfordMark SanfordTrump becomes presumptive GOP nominee after sweeping primaries Boston Globe endorses Trump's GOP challenger Bill Weld Trump challenger Bill Weld rules out 2020 independent bid MORE (S.C.) voted “present.”

Trump broke with four decades of precedent by refusing to release his tax returns during his 2016 campaign. He’s long cited an ongoing IRS audit, and recently suggested in an interview with The Economist that he might not release his tax returns until after leaving office.

Democrats had forced votes on a weekly basis from late February leading up to Tax Day in April on resolutions directing the House Ways and Means Committee to request the last decade of Trump’s tax returns. 

They revived the tactic last week after Trump fired James ComeyJames Brien ComeyIs coronavirus the final Trump crisis? Full appeals court to rehear case over McGahn subpoena Tucker Carlson: Biden's 'fading intellect' an 'opportunity' for Democrats to control him MORE as director of the FBI, which has been investigating whether the Trump campaign had improper contacts with Russian government officials. 

Three congressional committees have the power to request individual tax returns from the Treasury Department and review them in closed session: House Ways and Means, Senate Finance and the Joint Committee on Taxation.  

Sánchez’s resolution notes that Comey had previously testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee this month that tax returns can be useful for an investigation. 

“When are tax returns useful in investigating a criminal offense?” Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDemocratic senators call on domestic airlines to issue cash refunds for travelers Overnight Energy: Coronavirus package punts on environmental fights | Court sides with tribes in Dakota Access Pipeline case | Trump officials walk away from ethanol court fight Coronavirus package punts on environmental fights MORE (D-R.I.) asked.

“Well, they're useful in showing unreported income, motive. If someone hides something that's — should otherwise be a tax return indicates they might know it was criminal activity,” Comey said.

Democrats are turning to a variety of procedural avenues to circumvent GOP leaders and try to force a vote on requesting Trump’s tax returns. 

They launched a procedure known as a discharge petition last month on Rep. Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooBottom line Hillicon Valley: Facebook, Twitter dismantle Russian interference campaign targeting African Americans | YouTube to allow ads on coronavirus videos | Trump signs law banning federal funds for Huawei equipment House Democrats introduce bills to penalize census misinformation MORE’s (D-Calif.) bill requiring presidents and presidential candidates to provide their last three years of federal income tax returns to the Office of Government Ethics or the Federal Election Commission. 

The discharge petition would need 218 signatures to get a vote, meaning nearly two dozen Republicans would have to cross party lines and endorse the effort.

So far, Jones is the only Republican to sign onto the discharge petition.