The House Ways and Means Committee voted Tuesday to publicly release six years of Donald Trump’s tax returns, following years of Democratic efforts to secure the former president’s financial records as Republicans take control of the House next month.
The Democratic-led committee voted to release Trump’s tax returns, which cover eight of his businesses, by a vote of 24-16 along party lines on Tuesday evening after meeting behind closed doors for more than four hours.
It is not clear when Trump’s tax documents, which were originally requested by the committee in 2019, will be made available to the public. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, told CNN it could take “a few days” to redact personal information, such as Social Security numbers.
Following Tuesday’s vote, the House committee revealed that the Internal Revenue Service failed to audit Trump’s tax filings during his first two years in office, despite a policy that requires sitting presidents be audited.
“This is a major failure of the IRS under the prior administration, and certainly not what we had hoped to find,” chairman of the committee, Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., said Tuesday.
“It does seem to me to be a legitimate question, if the IRS had the responsibility and wasn’t auditing, what’s the explanation?” said former IRS commissioner John Koskinen, according to the New York Times.
While Democrats argued Trump’s tax returns are needed to assess the IRS program that audits presidents, Republicans called it a politically motivated fishing expedition.
“This is one of the most important votes I will ever cast as a member of Congress, and I stand by it 100 percent,” Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pa., said after Tuesday’s meeting.
“What was clear today is that public disclosure of President Trump’s private tax returns has nothing to do with the stated purpose of reviewing the IRS presidential audit process,” said Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, who called it a “political weapon.”
“This committee action will set a terrible precedent that unleashes a dangerous new political weapon that reaches far beyond the former president, and overturns decades of privacy protections for average Americans,” Brady said before the meeting.
Democrats argued the need for Trump’s tax returns will provide the checks and balances needed to restore the public’s confidence in the federal tax system.
“We have a two-tiered tax system, where working people are held to one standard and the very rich and the well-connected are held to a different standard,” said Steven Horsford, a Democrat from Nevada.
“This was not about being malicious,” Neal said as he praised the panel for keeping sensitive information from being leaked, while calling the debate “fairly cordial” and “professionally conducted” between Republicans and Democrats.
Trump has continually refused to make his tax returns public since he was elected to the White House, drawing public and political criticism. Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a plea by Trump’s lawyers to block the release of his financial information.
While there is no law requiring the president or presidential candidates to release their tax returns, it has become a custom. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris released their tax returns during their 2020 campaign.
In addition to voting to release six years’ worth of Trump’s tax returns, the committee also released legislation to enshrine into law the presidential audit program.
“I’ve proposed legislation to put the program above reproach. Ensuring the IRS conducts yearly, timely examinations while publicly disclosing certain information,” Neal said Tuesday.
“A president is no ordinary taxpayer. They hold power and influence, unlike any other American. And with great power comes even greater responsibility.”
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