House Democrats plan to force a floor fight with Republicans on Thursday over legislation that would require President Trump to disclose information about his personal taxes, business holdings, ethics waivers, and visitors to the White House and his vacation properties.
Knowing that the legislation will be blocked by Republicans who control the House, Democrats are hoping to squeeze the majority party so they can claim that GOP incumbents in competitive reelection fights are standing with a president who remains deeply unpopular. The move comes as Trump nears the 100th day of his presidency on Saturday, a milestone that he has mocked but that his administration has used as an opportunity to tout early accomplishments.
But Democratic lawmakers are also facing pressure from constituents, especially progressive supporters, to stridently oppose Trump and Republicans at every turn.
Responding to the deep opposition to Trump, Democrats for the first time will use the legislative process to try tying congressional Republicans to Trump’s decisions to withhold information about his personal wealth, business dealings with the federal government and visitors to the White House and Mar-a-Lago, his estate in Florida where he has spent most of the early weekends of his presidency.
During debate and votes on unrelated legislation, aides said Democratic lawmakers plan to use procedural gimmicks to try forcing a vote on a bill by Rep. Katherine M. Clark (D-Mass.), who represents suburban Boston. Given their control of the chamber, Republicans are likely to step in and either block consideration of the legislation or hold a vote that outright rejects it. Then, Democrats could begin attacking vulnerable GOP incumbents as supportive of Trump and his broken promises to “drain the swamp” in Washington and revamp the federal government’s ethics rules.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday that Trump “has no intentions” to release his tax returns.
“The president has released plenty of information and I think has given more financial disclosure than I think anybody else. I think the American population has plenty of information on his taxes,” Mnuchin said.
Polling released this week shows that Trump has reached this point in his presidency faring worse to much worse than other recent presidents. But in a Washington Post-ABC News poll released Tuesday, the public sides with Trump rather than his critics over whether it is a conflict of interest for him to spend time at his own properties. A 54 percent majority says he has the right to travel where he wants to. But 6 in 10 Americans say they disapprove of the major White House roles Trump has given to his daughter Ivanka and her husband, senior adviser Jared Kushner.
In a March Quinnipiac poll, 66 percent of registered voters said Trump should release his tax returns , while 30 percent said he should not.
Senior Democrats familiar with Thursday’s plans said they’re responding to growing public requests for information about Trump’s personal wealth and who’s earning face time with the president and top administration officials. In recent weeks, Republican lawmakers have faced questions about Trump’s decision to withhold information during raucous town hall meetings.
The legislation would direct the White House to hand over any document “that refers or relates to President Trump’s proposal to maintain an interest in his business holdings, while turning over day-to-day operation of those interests to his sons Donald J. Trump, Jr., and Eric Trump.”
The bill also would force Mnuchin to provide the House Ways and Means Committee with copies of Trump’s tax returns from 2007 through 2016 that would be reviewed in a closed executive session. Members of the panel, who have the right to request copies of personal tax returns, would then prepare a report on Trump’s taxes for the full Congress.
Under the legislation, the Office of Government Ethics would be required to inform Congress of any administration official granted a waiver or exemption from Trump’s executive orders banning former lobbyists from serving in his government or from a five-year ban on lobbying after their government service. And the General Services Administration would be required to hand over its legal analysis supporting a legal decision made last month that said Trump is not violating the emoluments clause or other federal laws barring government officials from being part of a lease of the Old Post Office Building, the home of Trump’s Washington hotel.
Finally, the bill would force the White House and Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate to to provide the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee with visitor logs “on a rolling and ongoing basis.”
The White House has so far refused to release visitor logs, citing “grave national security risks and privacy concerns.” But the administration will release the information when it decides to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests for those visiting offices of the White House characterized under the law as separate agencies, such as the Office of Management and Budget.
Several groups are suing the administration to get the information. Similar suits compelled the Obama administration to set up the regular release of information on visitors to the White House grounds. In the case of Trump, the lawsuits are asking the U.S. Secret Service to release its information on people who visit any of Trump’s personal properties while he is there.
Thursday’s anticipated House floor fight comes as House and Senate Democrats plan to release a new report recapping Trump’s broken campaign promises. The report, released by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Reps. Linda T. Sánchez (D-Calif.), Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), Clark and others, says that Trump has broken a series of pledges.
Among other things, Democrats claim Trump “promised to relinquish control of his businesses” but “didn’t divest from his businesses.”
During his transition, Trump promised he would outline how he planned to divest from his family’s holdings, but he continues to profit from the companies now run by his adult sons.
Trump also said that his companies wouldn’t seek foreign deals while he served in the White House, but Democrats note the Trump family companies are pursuing licensing agreements in the Dominican Republic and a property deal in Azerbaijan and has doubled initiation fees at Mar-a-Lago, where several foreigners have signed up as members since Trump’s inauguration.