As Democrats attempt to justify unleashing a dangerous new political weapon that overturns decades of privacy protections for average Americans that have existed since the Watergate reforms, Ways and Means Republican Leader Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) warned against their politically-motivated action that sets a terrible precedent.
Speaking on the House Floor, Rep. Brady noted that had Democrats brought forward “an honest attempt to improve presidential audits, I’m convinced we could have found common ground – with no need to expose private tax returns of anyone.”
The full remarks appear below.
This bill is a charade. A flimsy excuse that for years has been used to justify the political targeting of former President Trump.
And this week, Democrats in Congress finally accomplished their goal: for the first time in history making public the full, actual tax returns of a private citizen. This unprecedented action jeopardizes the right of every American to be protected from political targeting by Congress.
We’re told President Trump’s returns must be released in order for the IRS to conduct its presidential audits. That’s absurd. That’s like going to the doctor and being told your private medical records must be released in order to be examined.
One has nothing to do with the other. And then you’d quickly realize – someone just wants to release your medical records, and any excuse will do.
Let me be clear – our Republican concerns are not whether the President should have made his tax returns public as has been tradition, nor about the accuracy of his tax returns. That is for the IRS and the taxpayer to determine.
Our concern is that this politically-motivated action sets a terrible precedent that unleashes a dangerous new political weapon reaching far beyond any President, and overturns decades of privacy protections for average Americans that have existed since the Watergate reforms.
Our current law was put in place specifically to prevent presidents and members of Congress from targeting political enemies through their tax returns.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court chose not to intervene to stop the flimsy and admittedly partisan Democrat efforts to target the former President.
As a result, thanks to this week’s actions, longstanding privacy protections for all taxpayers have been gutted.
Going forward, the majority Chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee will have nearly unlimited power to target and make public the tax returns of private citizens, or political enemies, or business and labor leaders or even the Supreme Court Justices themselves.
No party in Congress should hold that power. No individual should hold the power to embarrass, harass, or destroy a private citizen through disclosure of their private tax returns.
After nearly half a century, the political “enemies list” is back in Washington, D.C., which will unleash a cycle of political retribution in Congress.
Many of us in Congress believed the current law was strong enough to protect private citizens against this political targeting – but it is no longer, and that is frightening.
Republicans will continue to fight to protect American taxpayers from this abuse of power that will surely have severe consequences for taxpayers and democracy for years to come.
We had urged Democrats to turn back. Because making private tax information public will be a regrettable stain on the Ways and Means Committee and on Congress, and will make American politics even more ugly and divisive.
In the long run, we believe every member of Congress will come to regret this.
So we strongly oppose this bill today. Not because portions of it don’t have merit. Some do. It has serious flaws, of course, because it didn’t exist 48 hours ago.
And had it been brought forward four years ago, three years ago, two years ago, as an honest attempt to improve presidential audits, I’m convinced we could have found common ground – with no need to expose private tax returns of anyone.
But not now. Not this bill. And not this way.
Republicans will not support any measure whose only purpose is to provide cover for the political targeting of a private citizen.