Neal spokesman: 'Strong case' taking shape to request Trump tax returns
But the pace has mobilized progressive Democrats, who question the methodical approach taken by the Springfield Democrat, who became chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee on Jan. 3.
"A strong case is being built," said William Tranghese, a Neal spokesman. "Chairman Neal will continue to conduct this process in a judicious, methodical and deliberative manner."
Neal's office was asked for an update Wednesday, the day activist Tom Steyer held a town hall-style gathering in the state's 1st Congressional District, part of an effort to pressure Neal on the tax return issue.
Also on Wednesday, nine left-leaning groups wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to complain that it is taking Neal too long to act.
"Chairman Richard Neal's term heading the Ways and Means Committee has not commenced in a manner that gives us confidence that under his chairmanship the committee is poised to provide the timely and stringent oversight America's rule-abiding taxpayers deserve," the groups said in their joint letter to Pelosi.
In addition to local TV ads this winter targeting Neal, Steyer's Need to Impeach campaign sent canvassers door to door this winter in the district, which includes all of Berkshire County. Steyer's campaign also hired a polling outfit to survey residents about Neal's approach to obtaining the president's tax returns.
The survey by Change Research found that 72 percent said they would be less likely to vote for Neal if they see him as reluctant to use his power as the committee's chairman to request the returns. (The survey of 813 voters had a margin of error of 3 percent.)
Neal announced after the Nov. 6 midterm election that he would request the returns.
"I know that it doesn't take three months to do what you're talking about," Steyer said of Neal, in an interview with The Eagle.
Tranghese said Neal is holding to the promise he made the day after the election.
"Since November, Chairman Neal has consistently said he intends to seek President Donald Trump's federal tax returns, Tranghese said.
"He is currently in the process of consulting with the counsel of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Joint Committee on Taxation to determine the appropriate legal steps to go forward with this unprecedented request," Tranghese said.
Since the administration of President Gerald Ford in the 1970s, presidents have made their returns public.
The chairman of Ways and Means has the power to request them, but that authority has never been tested.
In a Jan. 21 meeting with the editorial board of The Eagle, about two weeks after taking the chairmanship, Neal said he planned to be "methodical" and "judicious" in moving to obtain the returns. He said he would consult with tax lawyers and certified public accountants who work with the joint committee on the "underpinning reasons" for the request.
"I intend to ask for the president's tax returns as soon as the case is documented," he said.
Congress obtained the authority to request presidential tax returns after the Teapot Dome financial scandal in the 1920s, Neal said.
"We are speculating that there will be a long and grinding court case," Neal said in January. "I don't expect the first letter is going to get the tax documents."
A Treasury spokeswoman told Bloomberg that if Secretary Steven Mnuchin is asked for the returns, he will review the request with department attorneys.
Larry Parnass can be reached at email@example.com, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-496-6214.
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