On The Money: Dems inch closer to demanding Trump's tax returns | Consumer chief pressed to undo Mulvaney's work | IRS says average tax refund up $22

On The Money: Dems inch closer to demanding Trump's tax returns | Consumer chief pressed to undo Mulvaney's work | IRS says average tax refund up $22
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THE BIG DEAL--Dems inch closer to demanding Trump's tax returns: House Democrats are edging closer to formally requesting President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Trump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Ocasio-Cortez claps back at Trump after he cites her in tweet rejecting impeachment MORE's tax returns from the Treasury Department, as lawmakers ramp up their arguments for why it's necessary to examine the documents.

While Democratic leaders and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealSchiff blasts DOJ over memo on withholding Trump tax returns Schiff blasts DOJ over memo on withholding Trump tax returns On The Money: DOJ offers legal opinion backing refusal to release Trump tax returns | Centrist Democrats raise concerns over minimum wage | Trump bashes Powell ahead of crucial Fed meeting | Design leaks for Harriet Tubman bill MORE (D-Mass.) haven't announced exactly when they will make the request, several lawmakers say action is likely to come sooner rather than later.

 

Ultimately, it will be up to Neal to send the letter to Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinGOP nervous that border wall fight could prompt year-end shutdown GOP nervous that border wall fight could prompt year-end shutdown Schiff blasts DOJ over memo on withholding Trump tax returns MORE requesting Trump's tax returns. The Massachusetts Democrat has been taking a methodical approach because he thinks the matter is likely to result in a lengthy court battle.

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Neal told reporters Tuesday that he will make the request "when the case is ready." On Wednesday, he said it's important to take the right approach with the request because it will likely be "under the magnifying glass" of courts, and that his staff has been "working pretty hard" on the matter. The Hill's Naomi Jagoda tells us what that means for the road ahead.

 

LEADING THE DAY

Dems push Kraninger to undo Mulvaney's work at CFPB: House Democrats on Thursday pushed the director of the top federal consumer watchdog to reverse a yearlong effort by her Republican predecessor to sap the agency's power.

During a Thursday hearing, Democrats on a House panel sought pledges from Kathy Kraninger, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), to undo a slew of organizational and regulatory changes she inherited from the agency's former acting chief

White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyTrump asks Mulvaney to leave room during ABC interview due to coughing Trump asks Mulvaney to leave room during ABC interview due to coughing GOP nervous that border wall fight could prompt year-end shutdown MORE led the CFPB from November 2017 through December 2018 and dramatically reigned in the bureau's impact on the financial sector. His actions infuriated congressional Democrats, who sought Thursday to hold his successor accountable for the results.

"The Trump Administration has undertaken a sustained effort to destroy the agency. I am deeply concerned about the damage that they have done," said Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersFive memorable moments from Sarah Sanders at the White House Five memorable moments from Sarah Sanders at the White House Dems eye repeal of Justice rule barring presidential indictments MORE (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee.

Waters said Mulvaney declined to testify before the panel Thursday, "so I'm expecting our new director, Director Kraninger, to answer for him.

Kraninger, a former White House budget official, took over the CFPB in December. She pledged to set the polarizing consumer watchdog on a steady, accountable course after a year of political whiplash.

She told the Financial Services panel Thursday that she's striving to "create a fresh outlook for the agency" centered "stability, consistency and transparency."

 

Key issues for Dems: Democrats focused on how Kraninger would undo Mulvaney's efforts to reshape the agency...

Payday rule: Democrats blasted Kraninger for releasing a proposal initiated by Mulvaney to remove underwriting regulations from a 2017 rule on short-term, small dollar loans.

Reorganization: Kraninger defended Mulvaney's reorganization of the CFPB, which removed fair lending enforcement from a specialized office and placed it under the purview of the director's office.

Democrats say the move waters down the bureau's efforts to fight racial discrimination, and blasted Kraninger for keeping Eric Blankenstein, who admitted to writing blog posts questioning the prevalence of racism, in charge of the unit.

Kraninger said the reorganization helped "enhance the prominence" of fair lending enforcement "as part of the bureau's mission," and declined to weigh in on Blankenstein.

Military lending supervision: Democrats also criticized Kraninger for not restarting supervisory inspections of lenders to make sure they're complying with the Military Lending Act, a law meant to protect servicemembers and veterans from predatory loans.

Mulvaney suspended supervision of lenders under the law, arguing that the agency didn't have the explicit authority to do so. Kraninger said Thursday that she agreed and asked Congress for a direct greenlight to begin inspections.

Democrats insist that the CFPB already has the power to do that.

"Given you have said it is an important part of your job to look out for service members, why wouldn't you continue to do that?," asked Rep. Denny HeckDennis (Denny) Lynn HeckExclusive: Guccifer 2.0 hacked memos expand on Pennsylvania House races Heck enjoys second political wind Incoming lawmaker feeling a bit overwhelmed MORE (D-Wash.)

 

Republicans defend Kraninger: While Democrats seized on the chance to slam Kraninger and Mulvaney, Republicans praised their efforts and said the majority was reaping the consequences of their support for a strong, independent agency.

 

LATEST ON TAX SEASON:

  • The IRS's in-house watchdog on Thursday recommended that the agency provide more penalty relief for people who did not have enough money withheld from their paychecks throughout the year, as people file their taxes for the first time under President Trump's tax law.
  • The IRS also released statistics Thursday showing that the average refund size in the first five weeks of the filing season was up $22 compared to a similar period last year.
  • Congress and the IRS should consider extending this year's tax-filing deadline after the government shutdown caused challenges for the agency, a right-leaning group said in a report Thursday.

 

GOOD TO KNOW 

  • Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell will appear on Sunday's episode of "60 Minutes" for an interview on interest rates, the outlook for the U.S. economy and financial system cybersecurity risks, CBS announced Thursday.
  • House Democrats are demanding documents from the White House and Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding the AT&T-Time Warner merger following a report that President Trump pushed for DOJ lawyers to sue to block the deal.
  • China could agree to purchase U.S.-made Boeing planes as part of a trade deal being negotiated by the two countries, according to the CEO of the aircraft manufacturer.

 

ODDS AND ENDS

  • Fox Business host Lou Dobbs, normally a staunch supporter of President Trump, on Wednesday said he fears the administration has "lost its way" after the president met with corporate leaders who support greater levels of high-skilled immigration.
  • IBM chief Ginni Rometty on Thursday led a group of business leaders pressing Congress to pass the Equality Act, a piece of federal legislation that would guarantee protections for LGBTQ people.