On Tuesday, Democrats on the House Ways and Means committee decided to release the tax returns of former President Donald Trump, a move that critics fear could have “serious implications.” Based on party affiliation, the vote was 24-16.
The six years of returns, which span from 2015 to 2020, will be made available to the public in the coming days after staff members have prepared the documents to remove identifying information such as Social Security numbers, street addresses, and other similar details. The six years of returns will cover the period from 2015 to 2020.
It will mark the end of a protracted partisan battle that began when then-candidate Trump broke years of tradition by refusing to release his tax returns during the 2016 presidential campaign. The returns will be released as part of a more extensive committee report on the practice of the IRS inspecting presidents.
Richard Neal, the Democratic Chairman of the Committee from Massachusetts, stated on Tuesday following the vote that “after a long process, this was not about being punishing, and this was not about being malicious.”
The committee had several options available to them, including keeping the secret of the return for the time being, releasing a summary of the returns, releasing all or part of the returns themselves, or sending the documents to the entire House of Representatives, which would have the effect of making the returns public.
This action was met with vehement opposition from Republicans serving on the committee and elsewhere in Washington. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), the ranking member of the Republican Party in the House of Representatives, stated on Tuesday that the Democrats are “unleashing a deadly new political weapon that is going to have grave implications.”
In just a few weeks, Republicans will take control of the influential tax-writing committee, and while they wouldn’t say whether or not today’s move will lead to reprisals, it’s likely. Brady stated, “I won’t predict what the upcoming Congress and this committee will focus on about tax returns.” “But I know significant attention will be paid to the IRS.”
Brady will step down from his position as chair of the committee at the end of this year, and Representative Vern Buchanan (R-Florida) is now in the running to take his place. Buchanan has stated that the move constitutes “an exceedingly slippery slope” and would make it abundantly evident that no citizen of the United States is exempt from being targeted for their personal or political opinions.
Nevertheless, there was little that Republicans could do on Tuesday because Democrats controlled the panel and voted in lockstep.
Returns Spanning Six Years
Since the records themselves have not yet been prepared, what new information will be unearthed that is not already known to the general public is unknown. The New York Times was able to access a plethora of data from Trump’s tax returns dating back decades in the year 2020. However, they did not include tax returns from some years, such as 2018 and 2019, which were filed while Trump was serving as president but are now in possession of House Democrats.
According to the leaked tax returns, Donald Trump paid $1,500 in federal income taxes in 2016, the year he was elected president, but only $750 the following year. In addition, he did not pay any federal income taxes for 11 of the 18 years that were investigated by The Times. New York’s district attorneys have also gained access to some of Trump’s tax information, but they have not made this information publicly available.
Even though it went down in history, the hearing on Tuesday was over in a flash, at least from the perspective of the media. Following the opening of the review of the classified files, Chairman Neal moved swiftly into a private session after agreeing to a request made by Brady that a transcript of the private meeting would be made public. The majority of the committee supported Brady’s motion.
After that, more than four hours later, the cameras were turned back on, the reporters were allowed back into the room, and the voting started almost immediately after that.
The events that took place on Tuesday served as a bookend for Neal, who will pass the gavel on at the end of the year. In 2019, Democrats took control of the panel, and Neal became the committee chair. He immediately began his campaign for the returns, alleging that the committee required them as part of a more extensive investigation into a mechanism inside the Internal Revenue Service that audits sitting presidents.
Rep. Brady reiterated his criticism of the measure while speaking to reporters following the vote, saying, “what was evident today is that public publication of President Trump’s private tax returns has nothing to do with the claimed goal of examining the IRS presidential audit process.”
It has been a long-standing point of contention for Republicans that pursuing the returns was being done for an improper legislative purpose. They have maintained that the underlying motivation for doing so was to make them public to disgrace the former president.
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