Key senators spar over State pick’s taxes

Key senators spar over State pick’s taxes
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A pair of senators traded rhetorical barbs Thursday over Rex Tillerson, President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says 'Failing New York Times' should be held 'fully accountable' over Russia report Trump says 'Failing New York Times' should be held 'fully accountable' over Russia report Trump tweets ICE will begin removing 'millions' of undocumented migrants MORE's pick to lead the State Department. 

Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinProposed bipartisan kidney legislation takes on kidney disease epidemic in America Lawmakers raise security concerns about China building NYC subway cars House votes to boost retirement savings MORE (D-Md.) wrote in a letter to Democratic members of the Foreign Relations Committee that he and Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerPress: How 'Nervous Nancy' trumped Trump Press: How 'Nervous Nancy' trumped Trump Amash gets standing ovation at first town hall after calling for Trump's impeachment MORE (R-Tenn.) have a "disagreement" about requiring the Exxon Mobil CEO to hand over three years of tax returns. 

"I have not yet received 3 years’ worth of the nominee’s tax returns, which I have formally requested the Presidential Transition Team make available for review," Cardin wrote in the letter. "In his response to the tax return question in the questionnaire, the nominee promised to provide such information." 

Cardin, as well as other top Democrats and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersTrump hits polling on Fox News: 'Something weird going on at Fox' Trump hits polling on Fox News: 'Something weird going on at Fox' 2020 Democrats look to cut into Biden's lead with black voters MORE (I-Vt.), also urged lawmakers to hold off on moving forward with Trump administration nominations until they have passed an FBI background check, handed over financial and ethics information and answered "reasonable requests" for extra information from lawmakers.

But Corker, the chairman of the committee, blasted the Democrats' efforts, noting the committee has never asked secretary of State nominees to turn over tax returns. 

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He added that Tillerson is "currently ahead of schedule" for returning information to the committee. 

"Prior to his confirmation hearing, he will go through the same ethics and FBI checks as previous Secretary of State nominees. That has always been the plan, it is already in progress, and I am deeply disappointed my colleagues continue to imply otherwise," Corker said. 

Cardin noted in his letter that Tillerson is expected to hand over finance and ethics documents this week.

The push comes as Democrats try to require all of Trump's Cabinet picks to turn over three years of tax returns. Democrats previously blasted Trump for refusing to release his tax information during the presidential campaign.

Cardin noted on Thursday that he will work with Corker to resolve the disagreement over the tax returns but said he believes the documents are important because Tillerson has never worked in public service. 

"Tillerson was actively engaged with many foreign governments that could become relevant if confirmed as Secretary of State," he said. "The Senate has a responsibility to review all relevant documents during the confirmation process."

The Foreign Relations Committee is responsible for clearing Tillerson's nomination before he can get a vote from the full Senate.

Cardin said that while Corker is eyeing a hearing during the second week of January, it would be "difficult to lock in a nomination" until the committee has the CEO's information and time to review it. 

Tillerson turned in his questionnaire three days after Trump said he would nominate him to be the country's top diplomat, according to Corker's office. 

By comparison, they note that Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBroadway play 'Hillary and Clinton' closing early due to low ticket sales Broadway play 'Hillary and Clinton' closing early due to low ticket sales Facing challenge from Warren, Sanders touts strength against Trump MORE didn't turn in her questionnaire for 17 days and didn't hand over a financial disclosure until Jan. 5, 2009. Clinton's confirmation hearing was on Jan. 13, 2009. 

Cardin noted that he and Corker — who frequently talk about how well they work together — have spoken about the nomination "several times" and credited the Tennessee Republican for being open to having the hearing spread out over two days to allow for each member to ask questions of Tillerson.