After taking control of the House in the 2018 midterms, Democrats vowed to get their hands on President Donald Trump's tax returns as part of their broad oversight agenda.
But, months into 2019, critics say Democrats are moving with "incomprehensible sluggishness" that is threatening their chances of getting the documents before the 2020 elections.
"Contrary to what Neal has been saying, each day of delay does not strengthen their litigation hand—it is an unearned gift to Donald Trump."
—Jeff Hauser, Revolving Door ProjectAs HuffPost's Arthur Delaney reported Sunday, Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.)—the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee—"can ask for copies of Donald Trump's federal tax returns whenever he wants, but Neal is in no hurry and seemingly doesn't care if Democrats don't get the documents before the next election."
"Democrats said they'd make the request for Trump's returns after regaining control of the House of Representatives, but they've waited nearly three months to follow through," Delaney added. "Neal has said only that he will make the request sometime this year, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has backed his cautious approach."
Jeff Hauser, director of the Revolving Door Project at the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), said Neal's hesitance is inexcusable.
"Contrary to what Neal has been saying, each day of delay does not strengthen their litigation hand—it is an unearned gift to Donald Trump," Hauser told HuffPost.
Hauser added in a tweet Sunday that there is "zero basis to any of Neal's gestures at an explanation" of the delay.
— Jeff Hauser (@jeffhauser) March 31, 2019
The law, Delaney notes, is clear that the Treasury Secretary is obligated to turn over documents requested by the Ways and Means chair.
But as Common Dreams reported earlier this year, Neal has signaled that he intends to move extremely cautiously on the tax return issue, despite growing grassroots pressure to end the delays.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has declined to say directly whether he would turn over Trump's tax returns upon request—suggesting that there may be a legal battle over the documents.
That scenario would further draw out the process, making it less likely that House Democrats would obtain the president's tax returns before November 2020.
At least one Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee publicly expressed frustration with Neal's approach.
"I think you got to forget about next year anything happening, so we got eight, nine months to go through courts, get his returns," Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) told HuffPost. "I think the request has to go in very, very soon. I thought it would be done by now."
Tax March, a progressive advocacy group, has been one of the organizations leading the pressure campaign against Neal as he continues to slow-walk the process of obtaining Trump's tax returns, which the president has refused to release voluntarily.
"We have played this game for years, and Donald Trump will not willingly release his tax returns," Maura Quint, executive director of Tax March, said in January. "The only solution is for Chairman Neal to request his tax returns immediately."