Hoyer: IRS distributing refunds during shutdown is illegal

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerOmar says US should reconsider aid to Israel Liberal Democrat eyes aid cuts to Israel after Omar, Tlaib denied entry Lawmakers blast Trump as Israel bars door to Tlaib and Omar MORE (D-Md.) claimed Tuesday that the Trump administration lacks the legal authority to distribute tax refunds during the government shutdown, as the White House says it intends to do.

“Literally, there are $140 billion, approximately, in tax refunds that won’t be able to be sent,” Hoyer said during his weekly press briefing in the Capitol.

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Hoyer’s comments came on Day 18 of the partial government shutdown that’s resulted from a partisan impasse over border wall funding. One of the agencies affected by the stand-off is the Treasury Department, which will oversee the issuing of tax refunds as the 2018 filing season advances.

On Monday, the administration vowed that the shutdown will not delay the IRS’s distribution of those payments.

“Tax refunds will go out,” Russell Vought, the acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, told reporters on Monday.

The threat that tax refunds would be delayed was seen as a pressure point — and an advantage for Democrats — in the battle to reopen the government as Trump and Democratic leaders seem to be digging in on the issue of whether to provide billions of dollars for the president’s promised U.S.–Mexico border wall.

Hoyer said flatly that making the payments during the shutdown is illegal.

“The president now is going to order them to do what we think is illegal to do because he wants to act like a dictator,” Hoyer said.

To ramp up the pressure on Senate GOP leaders to act, Hoyer and House Democrats plan to pass four separate spending bills this week targeting some of the shuttered agencies.

On Wednesday, they’ll vote on a financial services bill to reopen the Treasury Department; on Thursday, they’ll bring two bills to the floor, one funding the Agriculture Department and Food and Drug Administration, and another financing the Interior Department, including the National Park Service. And on Friday, they’ll vote to reopen the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development departments.

All of those bills were passed by the Senate at the end of last year, but Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads The Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes Hobbled NRA shows strength with Trump MORE (R-Ky.) has refused to consider them this month, citing Trump’s opposition.

Echoing other Democratic leaders, Hoyer on Tuesday urged McConnell to bring the bills to the floor for the sake of ending the shutdown and freeing salaries for hundreds of thousands of furloughed federal employees.

“These are not our bills, but we want to open up the government and therefore we are compromising by only offering Republican bills,” Hoyer said.

“We’re now going to offer them one by one,” he added. “It’s an opportunity for every American to see who wants to open up government and end this Trump shutdown.”