Politico Magazine has titled a piece written by assistant law professor Daniel Hemel "Democrats Demanded Trump's Tax Returns. Then They Dragged Their Feet." Before the text of the article, we read "The House has the authority to request anyone's tax documents. But, inexplicably, the leadership has taken it slow."
It's obvious that she/he did not read the article because it's not inexplicable at all.
In an interview with her hometown newspaper last October, Nancy Pelosi stated that if Democrats were to retake the House of Representatives, demanding President Trump's income tax returns “is one of the first things we’d do — that’s the easiest thing in the world. That’s nothing."
Yet, as Hemel notes, Minority Leader Pelosi has been Speaker Pelosi for over two months and "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."
Hemel explains that a 95-year-old law authorizes the chairman to demand the president's tax returns from the Secretary of the Treasury. After Steven Mnuchin refuses the request, the House could issue a subpoena and if it is still resisted, obtain a Civil Action order in federal district court. Legal maneuverings could take a few years.
Nevertheless- or maybe therefore- the Ways and Means Committee should have requested the returns by now. Although Hemel is too polite to make it explicit, he evidently knows why it hasn't done so. Chairperson Neal has not released his returns and- more importantly- the individual second in line to succeed the President (first after the VP), Nancy
Pelosi isn’t aiding matters by refusing to release her own returns, a fact that the conservative media frequently—and not entirely unfairly—emphasizes. The arguments for why the president should release his returns apply similarly, if not quite as strongly, to the speaker. Congress is, as Pelosi says, “a co-equal branch of government,” and she is that branch’s most powerful member. Congress sets the IRS’ budget, so if we are concerned about the agency showing bias toward the president, shouldn’t we also be concerned about the treatment of powerful lawmakers who pull the agency’s purse strings?
The chairperson of Ways and Means answers to the Speaker- and the Speaker has not released her own tax returns. That does not excuse the President but makes a little less credible any formal plea for him to do the right thing (video below from mid-December).
Nancy Pelosi still is an effective leader of her party and the chamber it controls, whatever her refusal to recognize anti-Semitism. However, not only is her refusal a stumbling block but, if she were to make a dramatic, public release of her tax returns, the contrast to the President would be striking, if not compelling.