WASHINGTON, Nov 23 (Reuters) – U.S. congressional Democrats on Wednesday grappled with the daunting task of reviewing six years of former President Donald Trump’s tax returns as Republicans prepared to take control of the House of Representatives in less than six weeks.
Members of the Democratic-led House Ways and Means Committee said they hope to receive Trump’s return as soon as next week after the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday denied Trump’s attempt to shield the records from congressional scrutiny.
While the documents, which were first sought by the committee in 2019 while Trump was still president, will remain subject to federal confidentiality restrictions, Democratic lawmakers may release some details, possibly after a full House vote.
Democrats have until Jan. 3 to review the documents before Republicans take control of the House, after winning a slim majority in the Nov. 8 midterm elections, and shut down the investigation. Ways and Means Democrats have said they need to see Trump’s records to assess whether the Internal Revenue Service is properly auditing the president’s tax returns and to assess whether new legislation is needed.
Representative Lloyd Doggett, a Ways and Means Democrat, said members of the panel may have to work through weekends and holidays to review Trump’s tax returns.
“There is certainly the alternative of releasing these documents. And the time pressure here creates an additional reason to consider doing that,” Doggett told CNN.
“There is a way that we can forward these tax returns to Parliament and Parliament can act on this. And that would have the effect of making it public and then they could be scrutinized more carefully,” Doggett said.
A spokesman for the Ways and Means Committee did not respond to a request for comment on the panel’s plans.
Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee, the counterpart to the Ways and Means Committee, were weighing their options for any action on Trump’s tax returns, according to an aide who spoke on condition of anonymity.
These two committees are among three in Congress whose chairmen can receive individual tax returns upon request under federal law. The third panel is the Joint Committee on Taxation.
The Supreme Court’s decision was a setback for Trump, who faces multiple federal and state investigations as he pursues another race for the presidency in 2024.
Republicans said the Supreme Court’s decision not to stop the release of Trump’s records could allow Congress to turn private tax returns and the IRS into political weapons.
“The Supreme Court has no idea what their inaction is triggering,” Representative Kevin Brady, the top Ways and Means Republican, said in a statement. “They are opening a dangerous new political battleground where no citizen is safe.”
Committee members will consider what information related to Trump’s tax returns can be released when Congress returns to work next week. The House, currently on its US Thanksgiving holiday, is scheduled to return to work next Tuesday, but then leave Washington for the year on December 15. Lawmakers also face a Dec. 16 deadline to keep the government funded.
Reporting by David Morgan; Additional reporting by Moira Warburton; Editing by Will Dunham
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