The House Ways and Means Committee voted today not to use a nearly century-old law to request and make public President Donald Trump’s tax returns, as sought by U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. of New Jersey.

Pascrell said federal law allows some congressional committees to request copies of tax returns from the Treasury Department. The committee could then vote to effectively make them public by submitting them to the full House of Representatives. The full House Ways and Means Committee rejected the idea in 23-15 party-line vote today.

Pascrell, D-Paterson, made the request Feb. 1, citing a 1924 law and saying it’s necessary to ensure Trump’s business relationships don’t create conflicts that violate the Constitution. He has also made it the center of a Twitter campaign, using the hashtag #CongressCanRequest.

Trump didn’t release copies of his tax returns as a candidate, breaking with a roughly four-decade tradition. He said he would not because he was being audited by the IRS.

“"President Trump is now governing while also owning a business with international investments. The Constitution faces unprecedented threats due to this arrangement,” Pascrell said.

U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, the House Ways and Means Committee chairman, told reporters at the Capitol Monday that Pascrell’s request misrepresents the legislative intent of that law, according to reports by Politico and other media outlets.

“My belief is that if Congress begins to use its powers to rummage around in the tax returns of the president, what prevents Congress from doing the same to average Americans?” Brady said.

Pascrell said a precedent was set in 1974, when the Joint Committee on Taxation voted to release President Richard Nixon’s tax returns to the public, and that House Republicans voted three years to release taxpayer information when looking into IRS scrutiny of tea party groups.

“This is Checks and Balances 101,” Pascrell said.

New Jersey: Decoded cuts through the cruft and gets to what matters in New Jersey news and politics. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded. Follow @NJDecoded on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at

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