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 Trump’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 Jones (N.C.) sided with Democrats, while Rep. Mark Sanford (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 Comey 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 WhitehouseDems introduce bill requiring disclosure of guest logs from White House, Trump properties Sanders announces first staff hires in Iowa, New Hampshire McConnell works to freeze support for Dem campaign finance effort 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 Eshoo’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.