President-elect Donald Trump has refused to release his personal tax returns, but Democrats plan on trying to force his Cabinet picks to do so.
On Thursday, the top Democrats on Senate committees that will hold confirmation hearings for Trump’s Cabinet nominees will announce plans to require the picks to release three years of tax information before being referred to the full Senate for a final confirmation vote.
It’s unclear whether such a rule could pass in Republican-controlled committees that will hold confirmation hearings, but it’s the opening salvo of Democratic attempts to put GOP colleagues on the record of either siding with or bucking Trump, especially on the unpopular aspects of his personal background and policy positions.
In this case, Democrats see an opportunity to call attention to Trump’s refusal to release tax information despite public opinion polls showing that most Americans believe he should.
Polls showed that a majority of Republicans believed Trump should release his returns. Several senior GOP lawmakers said so publicly, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who told Business Insider last May: “For the last 30 or 40 years, every candidate for president has released their tax returns, and I think Donald Trump should as well.”
But so far, Trump has refused to release his returns, saying he will do so after an Internal Revenue Service audit is completed. There are no rules barring someone from releasing their tax returns during an IRS audit.
Currently, just three Senate committees — the Budget, Finance, and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs panels — have the authority to require Cabinet picks to release their tax returns. The others do not.
Democrats on Thursday plan to announce that they will introduce what amounts to a housekeeping rule in each of the other committees requiring Cabinet picks to release tax returns. Such rule changes are introduced during an organizational meeting that will be held when the new Congress convenes next year and are subject to an up-or-down vote.
An advisory of the event noted that despite Trump’s pledge to “drain the swamp,” many of his Cabinet picks so far are “wealthy insiders and extremists that would only help strengthen special interests’ grip on Washington Republicans and that providing Committees with tax returns will allow for greater and much-needed oversight and scrutiny.”
If this move by Democrats seems menial, well, it is, but there’s not much more Democrats can do to slow the confirmation process and try drawing political blood along the way.
That’s because Democrats changed Senate rules in 2013 and eliminated the 60-vote filibuster requirement for the confirmation of executive branch and judicial nominees. (The rule still applies to confirmation votes for the U.S. Supreme Court.) Republicans warned at the time that Democrats would regret their decision — and have reminded them of those warnings in recent weeks.