Democratic senator threatens to block Treasury nominees over info on Trump's tax returns

Democratic senator threatens to block Treasury nominees over info on Trump's tax returns
© Greg Nash

The top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday threatened to block nominees to the Treasury Department until the Trump administration answers questions about the handling of a Democratic request for the president’s tax returns.

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenTrump poised to kick off election-year fight over Medicaid Overnight Health Care: Justices won't fast-track ObamaCare case before election | New virus spreads from China to US | Collins challenger picks up Planned Parenthood endorsement Mnuchin warns UK, Italy of tariffs if digital tax plans are implemented MORE (D-Ore.) said in a statement that he would place a hold on Treasury nominees if the department did not share a wide array of communications and documents related to Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Hillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Apple reportedly dropped plans to let iPhone users encrypt backups | Justices decline facial recognition case | Critics fear Facebook losing misinformation fight | Truce on French tech tax On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Trump at Davos warns Europe on trade | President boasts about US economy to global elite | Experts say Trump trade victories may yield little growth MORE’s decision to keep President TrumpDonald John TrumpRouhani says Iran will never seek nuclear weapons Trump downplays seriousness of injuries in Iran attack after US soldiers treated for concussions Trump says Bloomberg is 'wasting his money' on 2020 campaign MORE’s tax returns private.

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“If the Treasury Department refuses to answer our questions, I am prepared to again place a hold on department nominees as I did previously when routine requests for information went unanswered,” Wyden said. “Congress needs to take action to force the administration to comply with oversight.”

Senators occasionally place holds on nominees who they find highly problematic, or to extract concessions. A hold prevents the Senate from quickly confirming the nominee.

Wyden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate panel overseeing Treasury, is seeking information from the department on Mnuchin's decision to decline a House Democratic request for Trump’s tax returns.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealHouse revives agenda after impeachment storm Conservative groups aim to sink bipartisan fix to 'surprise' medical bills Treasury watchdog to investigate Trump opportunity zone program MORE (D-Mass.) on April 3 requested six years of Trump's personal and business tax returns from the IRS. After a series of delays, Mnuchin told Neal in a May 6 letter that he would not comply with the request after consulting with the Department of Justice.

Neal then sent subpoenas for the returns to Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, which are likely to spawn a lengthy court battle.

In a May 14 letter, Wyden asked Mnuchin for copies of emails, memorandums and other communications detailing how Mnuchin came to his decision.

Wyden also asked Mnuchin for information on how the IRS handled previous congressional requests for tax returns, under section 6103(f) of the tax code, the same provision Neal cited in his request for Trump’s returns. That section states the Treasury secretary "shall furnish" tax returns requested by the Senate Finance or House Ways and Means committees.

In a Wednesday letter to Wyden, the Treasury Department only handed over copies of Mnuchin’s previous correspondence to Neal and a report on requests for returns under 6103 in 2018.

Wyden called the reply “unresponsive and wholly unacceptable.”