Sign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.
WASHINGTON — A U.S. House panel voted to release former President Donald Trump's tax records Tuesday, despite a spirited opposition by Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, the committee's top Republican.
Brady argued a release of Trump's tax records would set a dangerous precedent of weaponizing personal finance information.
“It’s the power to embarrass, harass or destroy Americans through disclosure of their tax returns,” Brady said. “After nearly half a century, the political enemies list is back in Washington, D.C., and we worry this will unleash a cycle of political retribution in Congress.”
The House Ways and Means Committee voted 24-16 on party lines to release a committee report to the full House, including supporting materials with sensitive information, such as addresses, redacted. The committee didn't specify when the public would be able to view the records. Chair Richard Neal, D-Massachusetts, had obtained the records in November following a protracted legal battle involving the Supreme Court.
The committee voted after meeting behind doors for hours to deliberate on what to do with the tax records. Brady motioned to make a transcript of the meeting public so voters could identify any members who wanted to make the records the public. The committee voted unanimously to issue a transcript, but it could be days before it is made available.
Democrats have long angled to get a copy of Trump’s tax returns, which the former president opted not to release despite decades of precedent. The New York Times obtained more than 20 years of Trump’s tax data in 2020, revealing years of payment-avoidance strategies, financial losses and audits that belied his image of a prodigious businessman. But the Times was not able to access Trump’s entire tax history, including three years of records requested by Neal.
Neal accessed the records using a little-known provision in the tax code, which the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation used in 1973 and 1974 to access former President Richard Nixon’s tax returns. But it took the Ways and Means Committee almost four years to get the records, with the Treasury Department under the Trump administration refusing to comply.
The Supreme Court ruled in November that the Treasury Department must hand over the records. But with only a few weeks left of Democratic control in the House, the committee had scant options on what to actually do with them. Republicans have not indicated a desire to investigate Trump’s taxes through Congress.
Brady and other Republicans saw a public release of tax returns as a personal attack on Trump, saying it “unleashes a dangerous new political weapon that reaches far beyond the former president, and overturns decades of privacy protections for average Americans that have existed since the Watergate reforms.”
Brady insisted his concern was not about defending the accuracy or propriety of the tax returns, which he said “is for the IRS and the taxpayer to determine.”
Brady is set to retire at the end of this Congress, and the next chair of the committee remains unclear. Three Republicans — Adrian Smith, R-Nebraska; Vern Buchanan, R-Florida; and Jason Smith, R-Missouri — have been vying for the top job in a competitive selection process, but a fight for the next GOP House leader has delayed the determination of many of the top committee assignments.
Brady declined to say whether Republicans would vow not to use the same tax code provision to make public other people’s tax returns in the future.
Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, the only Texas Democrat on the committee, acknowledged that much of the former president’s tax history was made public by The New York Times, but said a public release through formal channels “may allow determination of how well IRS performed, any Trump obstruction, and confirmation of NYT findings.”
“But I am not expecting to discover any big, new bombshells, especially given the very limited review opportunity,” Doggett said in a statement Monday before he had a chance to review the records.
Disclosure: The New York Times has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.