Demanding the president’s tax returns “is one of the first things we’d do” when Democrats control the House of Representatives, now-Speaker Nancy Pelosi told her hometown San Francisco Chronicle less than a month before the November 2018 midterm elections swept her party back into power. “[T]hat’s the easiest thing in the world,” she added. Congress is a “co-equal body of government,” and “[w]e have to have the truth.”
But more than two months after Pelosi took the speaker’s gavel, President Donald Trump’s tax returns are still sitting in an IRS file cabinet, and no member of the “co-equal” Congress has had a look. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J) says his party will issue a formal demand for Trump’s returns in mid- to late March, but the one House Democrat who has the statutory authority to obtain the documents—Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.)—insists he still doesn’t “have a timeline” for moving forward on the matter.
Voters who took Pelosi at her word last fall are right to feel frustrated. Obtaining the president’s tax returns was never going to be “the easiest thing in the world,” and it will likely require a legal battle that could go all the way to the Supreme Court. For that reason, it was important for House Democrats to think strategically about how to build the best case. But as weeks turn into months, the Democrats’ plodding progress starts to look less like strategizing and more like foot-dragging.
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