|Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-New Jersey)|
Continuing in his quest to examine President Trump’s tax returns, Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. tried unsuccessfully Monday night to use a legislative maneuver to force the House to exercise powers granted in a 1924 law.
"The American people have the right to know whether or not their president is operating under conflicts of interest related to international affairs, tax reform, government contracts or otherwise," said Pascrell, D-Paterson.
Pascrell's "privileged resolution" tried to compel the Ways and Means Committee to use its power to obtain Trump's tax returns and make them available to the full House, which would in effect make them public.
Pascrell used a provision of the rules that lets members raise questions of privileges affecting the entire House, and Pascrell said his measure fit that description because it involved Congress serving to check on the power of the executive branch. But Rep. Mike Simpson, an Idaho Republican presiding in the chamber, ruled that Pascrell was trying to direct a committee to meet, and that did not meet the standard. Pascrell appealed, and the majority tabled his appeal in a largely party-line vote of 299-185-2.
Pascrell said he was pleased that two Republicans voted "present" rather than with the majority, and one of them, Mark Sanford of South Carolina, agreed to sign a letter Pascrell is preparing to send to the chairmen of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees seeking disclosure.
"This is going to be a slow process," Pascrell said. "I knew it when i got in."
Pascrell's resolution noted that there are nearly 1.1 million signatures on a petition on a White House website calling for the immediate release of Trump's tax returns along with necessary information to etermine whether he is violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which bars federal officials from receiving gifts or things of value from foreign governments.
A 1924 law used twice before in history allows the chairmen of the House and Senate committees that write tax policy to compel the Treasury Department to provide copies of any citizen's confidential tax information. Pascrell on Feb. 1 asked the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Texas Republican Kevin Brady, to invoke the power. Brady rejected the request, and he was backed up by fellow Republicans in a party-line committee vote on Feb. 14.
In offering a privileged resolution, Pascrell argued that his measure deserved to be brought up ahead of measures posted for votes by the majority. The maneuver was used last year by House conservatives to force a vote on impeaching the director of the Internal Revenue Service, but a last-minute deal prevented an impeachment vote.
The "privileged resolution" is more often used by the minority party, currently the Democrats. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi tried to force a vote on a change to gun control policy in 2015, for example, and her effort had the same result as Pascrell's.
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