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 TrumpThe Memo: The Obamas unbound, on race Iran says onus is on US to rejoin nuclear deal on third anniversary of withdrawal Assaults on Roe v Wade increasing 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 JonesHillary Clinton brings up 'Freedom Fries' to mock 'cancel culture' Georgia officials open inquiry into Trump efforts to overturn election results Supreme Court declines to hear case challenging unlimited super PAC fundraising MORE (N.C.) sided with Democrats, while Rep. Mark SanfordMark SanfordLobbying world 5 lawyers leave Trump impeachment team ahead of trial: reports South Carolina GOP votes to censure Rep. Rice over impeachment vote 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 Comey'Fox News Sunday' to mark 25 years on air Showtime developing limited series about Jan. 6 Capitol riot Wray says FBI not systemically racist 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 WhitehouseJudge's decision on Barr memo puts spotlight on secretive DOJ office On The Money: Incomes, consumer spending soared in March | Harris, senators work behind scenes on jobs package | Biden cancels some border wall construction Harris, senators work behind scenes on jobs package 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 EshooNIH readies grants for more research on long-term health effects of COVID-19 Lawmakers launch bipartisan caucus on SALT deduction Biden clean electricity standard faces high hurdles 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.