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

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenTrump escalates fight over tax on tech giants Trump administration proposes tariffs on .4B in French goods Democratic congressman calls for study of effects of sex-trafficking law 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 TrumpStates slashed 4,400 environmental agency jobs in past decade: study Biden hammers Trump over video of world leaders mocking him Iran building hidden arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles in Iraq: report 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 NealFalling impeachment support raises pressure for Democrats on trade Where things stand in court fights over Trump tax returns Pelosi signals USMCA deal is 'within range' 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 MnuchinHillicon Valley: House passes anti-robocall bill | Senators inch forward on privacy legislation | Trump escalates fight over tech tax | Illinois families sue TikTok | Senators get classified briefing on ransomware On The Money: Falling impeachment support raises pressure for Dems on trade | Trump escalates fight over tech tax | Biden eyes minimum tax for corporations | Fed's top regulator under pressure over Dodd-Frank rules Mnuchin raises concerns over global talks on taxing digital economy 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.