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US Rep. Neal: Democrats plan to ask for Trump tax returns

November 7, 2018
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FILE - In this April 12, 2018, file photo, House Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. With the Democrats gaining control of the House in the Tuesday, Nov. 6, election, Neal is poised to become chairman of the committee. He said Wednesday that the powerful committee would likely ask for President Donald Trump's tax returns. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

BOSTON (AP) — U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, in line to be the next House Ways and Means Committee chairman, is planning to ask for President Donald Trump’s tax returns.

The Massachusetts Democrat said “yes, I think we will” when asked Wednesday at a press conference in Springfield whether the committee would seek the documents.

Neal said he hoped Trump wouldn’t try to fight the request.

“Legally, it meets the law, and I think that there are some precedents for this,” Neal said. “I hope that the president would do this on his own, largely because every president since Gerald R. Ford has voluntarily done this.”

Trump has refused to release his tax returns, breaking with standard practice.

On Wednesday, Trump suggested Republicans would retaliate if Democrats use their new House majority to issue subpoenas and investigate his businesses. Democrats take control of the House in January.

Neal said the request could prompt a legal challenge. He said that while it’s illegal for a member of Congress to solely to release anyone’s tax returns, the Ways and Means Committee chairman under law has the ability to ask for the president’s return.

“And then I assume that there would be a court case that would go on for a period of time,” he added.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi wouldn’t answer a question Wednesday about whether Democrats will seek Trump’s tax filings. If elected speaker, Pelosi said she’ll leave final decisions about that oversight to committees.

Neal’s comments came as Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, fresh off a convincing re-election win, pledged Wednesday to serve all four years of his second term, but wouldn’t say yet whether he hopes to continue in office beyond that.

Unofficial returns from Tuesday’s election showed Baker winning about two-thirds of the vote in his race against Democrat Jay Gonzalez, including solid showings in Democratic-leaning urban areas of Massachusetts.

The moderate Republican took nearly 50 percent of the vote in Boston, and handily won in other cities including Worcester, Springfield and New Bedford.

“People want their public officials to spend a little less time yelling at each other and a little more time trying to actually accomplish things,” said Baker, who has touted his efforts to avoid partisan bickering and work collaboratively with the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

Calling the day after the election just another “work day,” he began Wednesday by meeting with his cabinet and senior staff. He said there was a “ton of work” still to be done on issues ranging from opioid addiction to housing and climate change, but didn’t offer any specific new proposals for his second term.

Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito continue to stand as a GOP island in a sea of Democratic influence in Massachusetts. Voters Tuesday sent an all-Democratic congressional delegation to Washington, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who easily defeated two opponents and is among potential Democratic challengers to President Donald Trump in 2020.

With Democrats seizing control of the U.S. House in the midterm elections, several members of the Massachusetts delegation, including Neal, stand to emerge as powerful players on Capitol Hill in the 2019-2020 Congress. Rep. Jim McGovern, of Worcester, is likely to chair the influential Rules Committee.

Baker dismissed speculation that his success in Massachusetts could raise his national stature among Republicans heading into 2020.

He would not rule out seeking a third term but said any decision would come further down the road.

Baker said one of the most “positive developments” of Tuesday’s voting was the re-election of several other Republican governors in the northeast who he considers moderate, including Gov. Phil Scott in Vermont, Gov. Chris Sununu in New Hampshire and Gov. Larry Hogan in Maryland.

Also Tuesday, transgender supporters in Massachusetts and the nation were celebrating the passage of the first-ever statewide referendum on a transgender rights law. LGBTQ advocates feared a vote to undo the 2016 law that bars discrimination against transgender people in public accommodations could lead to similar attempts to repeal other state laws.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association, meanwhile, said it was disappointed voters rejected a ballot question that would have set strict limits on the number of patients a single nurse could care for at one time. Donna Kelly-Williams, the president of the union, said hospital executives who opposed the measure spread “fear and confusion” among voters.

Steve Walsh, president of the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association, said the question’s defeat would be good for patients, but added hospitals were willing to continue discussing appropriate staffing levels.

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Associated Press video journalist Rodrique Ngowi contributed to this report from Springfield, Massachusetts.

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