Republicans Vote to Keep Trump Personal & Business Tax Returns Secret
House Ways and Means Committee disapproves H.Res 479, a Pascrell-authored resolution seeking the President’s tax documents, on party line vote
Washington, DC, September 7, 2017
Tags: Homeland Security
Today, the House Ways and Means Committee voted down a Resolution of Inquiry filed by U.S. Representative Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-09) directing the Secretary of the Treasury to submit President Trump’s tax returns for tax years 2006 through 2016, as well as tax return information for 515 of President Trump's business entities, to the House of Representatives. The measure failed 21-15 along party lines. (Opening remarks below.)
"How can we debate tax reform proposals without seeing the President’s tax returns? We know he has no qualms about enriching himself while holding office. Congress has the authority and the duty to obtain and review President Trump’s tax returns to ensure there are no potential conflicts of interest in the tax policies he is proposing. We must make sure tax reform benefits the middle class, not multimillionaires like Trump," Rep. Pascrell said. "This vote deprives the American people of the transparency they deserve and the checks and balances the U.S. Constitution requires. My Republican colleagues may think they registered a win today by blocking this measure, but when the public is kept in the dark, no one wins. This will not be the last they hear from me."
The Resolution of Inquiry would have made a formal request to the Treasury Secretary for tax information from Mr. Trump and his businesses, including (1) details of debts held by foreign governments and foreign companies; (2) investments in foreign countries and foreign enterprises; and (3) use of any tax shelters, corporate structures, tax avoidance maneuvers, abatements, or other loopholes to reduce or eliminate tax liability.
Obtaining Mr. Trump’s tax returns would allow for much-needed Congressional oversight of potential conflicts of interest and foreign influence over the President. Reviewing these returns is an even more urgent need in light of the Administration’s intention to move forward on tax reform.
Rep. Pascrell's Resolution of Inquiry is part of the House Democrats' package of inquiries that have been filed in various committees. He also filed a Resolution of Inquiry for President Trump's tax returns in March, which was voted down 24-16 in the Ways and Means Committee.
A Resolution of Inquiry is a legislative tool that has privileged parliamentary status, meaning it can be brought to the House Floor if the Committee hasn’t reported it within 14 legislative days, even if the Majority leadership has not scheduled it for a vote. Once introduced, the Committee must schedule a Markup, which means there has to be debate and the Committee must vote on the Resolution. The Committee can report the Resolution "unfavorably" after Markup to prevent it from going to the floor, but otherwise it can be raised for a vote before the full House of Representatives.
Rep. Pascrell’s opening remarks (as prepared) from the committee markup today:
I would like to begin by thanking all my colleagues for being here this afternoon as we again have an opportunity to do our jobs and oversee an unchecked executive branch.
The Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means has the authority to request President Trump’s tax returns for review in a closed session -- authority found in Section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code. Despite my repeated requests to the Chairman to make this request, Republicans on the committee continue to be complicit in keeping the President’s tax returns hidden. This resolution will force the committee to vote and give our colleagues another opportunity to fulfill our responsibility to the American people.
The President and the Republicans in Congress have proposed pursuing comprehensive tax reform that lowers rates for businesses and simplifies the tax code. We don’t have the details of a proposal yet. And we also don’t know how the President stands to benefit from the various tax reform ideas that are supposedly under consideration. As the Committee that has jurisdiction over the tax code, it is our responsibility to have a public conversation about tax reform policies and who they benefit.
So far, tax reform discussions have happened behind closed doors with deals being cut between Republican leadership and the White House.
In fact, Mr. Chairman, I was disappointed that you scheduled this meeting today at the same time as the Democratic Caucus was to hold a public forum on tax reform, forcing it to be postponed. We should be debating these issues before the public – and pushing out of a public forum only pushes tax reform discussions further into the dark.
We know based on a two- page release of a 2005 tax return that President Trump would personally benefit by $31 million from changes that the Republicans have proposed in their blueprint (eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax). Under the plan laid out in the Republican blueprint, the President’s income tax rate would be lower than the average rate paid by families earning $75,000.
It is important that we guarantee that wealthy individuals still pay their fair share in taxes. It is disturbing that Trump is pushing tax changes that benefit himself by tens of millions of dollars a year. The old return that we do have shows that President Trump is pushing for tax changes that benefit multimillionaires like him, not the middle class.
His full, up-to-date tax returns would also show us how honest he was in paying his taxes; how aggressively he avoided tax; whether he used dubious legal measures, as has been reported; and whether he has been audited correctly by the IRS.
This resolution asks for information pertaining to not only Trump’s personal tax return but the returns of the companies from which he owns, controls, and profits from as listed on his FEC disclosure Form 278.
Mr. Trump has not divested from his businesses, as was recommended by the Office of Government Ethics. Mr. Trump runs enterprises through more than 500 LLCs and each of those has operational income and expenses, and those pass-throughs will pass through those incomes and expenses onto Trump’s 1040.
As we examine conflicts of interest, it makes sense to examine the tax information of those businesses to see where conflicts may arise.
News reports suggest that former FBI Director Robert Mueller, who is leading the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, is enlisting the IRS Criminal Investigations Unit, which specializes in tax-related and money-laundering crimes, and that he has access to President Trump’s tax returns. We will be behind the curve – aren’t we going to look foolish when this all comes out later?
It has been reported that Paul Manafort, former Trump Campaign Manager, is being investigated as well for possibly not checking the box on his tax returns to claim a foreign bank account – 1040 forms have a box on Schedule B one must check to report whether he has any foreign bank accounts. The American people deserve to know if Trump has one checked on his, and ask about those foreign entanglements.
While Mueller is doing his job – we need to do ours! This body has a responsibility. The Ways and Means Committee oversees changes to the tax code, and this committee has the authority to obtain and review the President’s tax returns to see how he personally stands to benefit. To ignore this responsibility would be a dereliction of our duties.
Tax reform should not be another opportunity for this President to get goodies for his friends and family at the expense of the taxpayer. This man in the White House represents the most corrupt Administration we have seen in modern American history.
Why wouldn’t we do our due diligence and examine his tax returns for conflicts of interest and potential criminal wrongdoing? Why are Republicans being complicit in keeping his tax returns hidden?
We as a Congress are the chief bulwark against the damage this man can do by abusing the powers of the presidency. Let’s start by doing our job and request his tax returns.