Top Finance Democrat announces hold on Treasury nominees over Trump's tax returns

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOvernight Defense: House passes T spending package with defense funds | Senate set to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales | UN nominee defends climate change record Grassley announces opposition to key Trump proposal to lower drug prices Exclusive: Trump administration delayed releasing documents related to Yellowstone superintendent's firing MORE (Ore.), the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, announced on Wednesday that he is placing a hold on Treasury Department nominees, arguing that the department has not sufficiently responded to his requests for information about its handling of Democrats' request for President TrumpDonald John TrumpFormer Joint Chiefs chairman: 'The last thing in the world we need right now is a war with Iran' Pence: 'We're not convinced' downing of drone was 'authorized at the highest levels' Trump: Bolton would take on the whole world at one time MORE's tax returns.

“Congress has a constitutional obligation to conduct oversight of the executive branch, so I am placing a hold on Treasury Department nominees," Wyden said in a statement, which came two weeks after he had threatened to place the hold.

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In particular, Wyden said that Brent McIntosh, Trump's nominee to be Treasury undersecretary for international affairs, should not receive a hearing until Wyden receives answers to his information requests.

McIntosh is currently general counsel for Treasury, and his office has been involved in discussions about the request for Trump's tax returns.

"Mr. McIntosh was central to the Treasury Department’s decision making and without additional context on the process, committee members will not be able to ask informed questions," Wyden said.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealTrump's tax returns — DOJ trying to put off the inevitable? Democrats talk up tax credits to counter Trump law House panel approves bills on tax extenders, expanding tax credits MORE (D-Mass.) has issued letters and subpoenas demanding six years of Trump's tax returns from the IRS. He cited a provision in the tax code that states that the Treasury secretary "shall furnish" returns requested by the chairmen of Congress's tax committees.

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinTrump's tax returns — DOJ trying to put off the inevitable? GOP lawmakers want Mulvaney sidelined in budget talks The Hill's Morning Report — US strikes approved against Iran pulled back MORE rejected the request and subpoena, arguing that they don't have a legitimate legislative purpose. Both Neal and Mnuchin expect the dispute to eventually be resolved in the courts.

Wyden in May sent letters to Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, asking them about Treasury and IRS communications related to Neal's request, including communications made before Neal's initial request in anticipation of it. Earlier this month, Wyden sent another letter to Rettig, asking for information about a draft IRS memo prepared last fall that found that the agency had to comply with congressional tax committees' requests for returns unless executive privilege was invoked.

Treasury responded to Wyden's May letter to the department by saying that Neal's request was different than past congressional requests for tax returns, and by sending Wyden copies of Mnuchin's past correspondence with Neal and an annual report that the IRS prepares for the Joint Committee on Taxation about requests for tax return information. The IRS did not respond to Wyden's June 4 letter to the agency by the senator's June 11 deadline.

“In letters to Secretary Mnuchin and Commissioner Rettig, I asked a number of questions about compliance with congressional requests for tax return information. They included basic inquiries about whether the treasury secretary has been involved in compliance before and when political appointees learned of a memo prepared in advance of an expected congressional request for tax return information," Wyden said in a statement. "I have received non-answers or no response at all, which is completely unacceptable."

Wyden had also put a hold on Trump Treasury nominees in the past because he felt like the department was stonewalling his information requests.

For example, he had put a hold on Trump's nomination of Justin Muzinich to be deputy Treasury Secretary last summer but then lifted that hold in November after Treasury cooperated with several of his information requests. Muzinich was confirmed in December on a mostly party-line vote.