House Republicans beat back a Democratic attempt to smoke out President Donald Trump’s tax returns Monday, after the issue was forced on the floor by an obscure parliamentary move.
Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) filed a privileged resolution Monday night calling on Trump to release his tax returns, saying the detailed documents could aid ongoing investigations into potential links between the president, his associates and Russia.
The House voted along party lines to table the resolution, effectively killing the proposal, but not before Democrats demanded a roll call vote forcing Republicans to go on the record.
The move is just the latest tack by House Democrats to force Republicans to take tough votes, either in committee or on the House floor, regarding Trump’s potential conflicts of interest and business dealings.
Democrats have called on Trump to release his tax returns for months but redoubled their efforts in recent weeks after the resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and reports of frequent contact between Trump associates and Russia during the campaign.
While not used frequently, House members have turned to privileged resolutions when they want to take dramatic action to force a vote on an issue that leadership would rather ignore. For instance, lawmakers beat back a House Freedom Caucus attempt to impeach the IRS commissioner with a privileged resolution late last year.
The Democratic resolution is Pascrell’s second recent attempt to force Republicans’ hand on Trump’s tax returns. Earlier this month he circulated a letter calling on Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) to formally request the tax documents.
Trump has repeatedly refused to release his tax returns, despite decades of precedent, saying he’s under audit.
Pascrell, a senior member of the Ways and Means Committee, also backed a similar amendment during a panel meeting two weeks ago. Republicans opposed the amendment on a party-line vote.
“My belief is that if Congress begins to use its powers to rummage around in the tax returns of the president, what prevents Congress from doing the same to average Americans?” Brady told reporters at the time.
Pascrell’s resolution calls on Congress to request Trump’s tax documents dating back to 2006 for review by Ways and Means members, who would then vote to report the information to the full House.
Democrats are also leaning on other parliamentary procedures to force Republican action on the Trump administration.
Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) filed a so-called “resolution of inquiry” Monday demanding HHS Secretary Tom Price release any information about the administration’s plan to repeal Obamacare.
Kennedy’s resolution must be considered by the relevant House panel, in this case the Energy and Commerce Committee, within 14 days or it can be brought to the floor for a vote.
Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee plan to bury a similar resolution from Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday, the same day Trump is set to give his first prime time address to Congress.
Nadler’s resolution calls on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to hand over any documents related to “criminal or counterintelligence investigations” of Trump, White House staff or his business.