President Donald Trump will address a joint session of Congress tonight 9pm. Covered on all news channels.
The Resistance at Congressional Town Halls: This past week we saw a split response by New Jersey Republican congressmen to increasingly urgent demands by constituents for House members to face their public and account for their support of an unstable President Trump. NJ07 Rep. Leonard Lance held not one but 2 town halls in large 900-seat arenas and patiently faced down crowds organized against nearly everything he stands for in Congress, while every other NJ Republican dived into hiding or offered up anemic replacements of “telephone” meetings or controlled small gatherings. Lance got credit for meeting up with his public, though let’s face it, it was no more than what’s required of any of these guys.
Leonard Lance listened to you, but then votes to shield Trump: Politely listening to complaints from worried people means little if that congressman doesn’t take stock in his decisions and alter course. Yesterday, Leonard Lance voted to help President Trump hide his tax returns from the American public. That matters because Trump has refused to divest himself of his businesses or put them in blind trust, leaving them instead in the hands of his two eldest sons, longtime subordinates who are used to doing his bidding.
Are the Trumps clean? That leaves open questions of whether decisions, including foreign policy decisions, may be made in the best interests of the America people, or merely to increase the wealth of the Trump family or pay their back debts. There are increasing concerns that Russia is influencing Oval Office decisions. But determining that is difficult against a wall of evasion from the Trumps. NPR has even launched an investigative reporting team to deconstruct how Trump’s business holdings are influencing the presidency and vice-versa. This is info the Trumps seek to conceal by decisions like refusing to make his tax returns public, against the custom in America where politicians seeking the highest office open their books to the public to convince voters they’re clean.
Lance was challenged on this last week by constituents, and he backed Trump hiding his tax returns, adding he refuses to release his own too. And Monday, Lance – and every other Republican in the NJ delegation – voted down a resolution to request the President’s tax returns. Party line vote. Circling the wagons.
Dems have called on Trump to release his tax returns for months; let’s face it, normal candidates do this willingly and during their campaigns. But the temperature ramped up after National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s resignation and reports of frequent contact between Trump associates and Russia during the campaign.
Bill Pascrell steps in. With the committee solution denied, CD8’s Rep. Pascrell put forward a resolution that would have directed the entire House to ask for 10 years of Trump’s tax return for bipartisan review in a closed session of House Ways and Means, which could then vote to send the returns to the full House (or decide not to). Under federal tax law, the chairs of House Ways and Means and Senate Finance and the Joint Committee on Taxation can request tax returns from Treasury to be considered in a closed meeting. Pascrell read the text of his resolution (below) on the House floor last night, drawing a standing ovation from other Democratic lawmakers. [I’m stuck in buffering hell, but the video is here and Pascrell rises to speak at 36:27).
Pascrell attempted to offer the resolution as a “privileged” measure. Under House rules, privileged resolutions have to be acted on within two legislative days. The House voted along party lines, Republicans voting Pascrell’s resolution was not in fact privileged. This was Pascrell’s second attempt to force Republicans to act on Trump’s tax returns. On Feb. 13, he attempted to utilize an obscure power Congress gave itself after the Teapot Dome scandal, calling on Republican Rep. Kevin Brady as chair of House Ways and Means to request the documents. He was turned down. Pascrell has said [Trump’s] conflict of interest would “blow the roof off Teapot Dome”
TONIGHT: Trump at Joint Session of Congress: Tonight, President Trump will address a joint session of Congress tonight (9pm). What a wonder it would be if Trump announced he was volunteering to make public his continuing financial dealings, but I won’t hold my breath.
Tonight Pascrell has invited as his guest University of Virginia Law School professor George Yin, a former chief of staff at the Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation, who has advocated a congressional route to addressing the transparency problems created by Trump’s secrecy of potential financial entanglements that impact the workings of his presidency. It is traditional for member of both parties to angle for members of Congress to angle for aisle seats to welcome the president into the home of the legislative branch of government. Pascrell’s done it for years. But tonight, he’ll position himself in the middle of the aisle. He has no plans to shake President Donald Trump’s hand.