Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Supreme Court Nomination Watch: White House To Withhold Nominee's Tax Returns

Document Release Excludes First Bush Administration

From the Washington Post:

  • The Bush administration will not give Senate investigators access to the federal tax returns of Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr., White House and congressional officials said yesterday, a break with precedent that could exacerbate a growing conflict over document disclosure in the confirmation process.
  • The change in policy on tax returns could fuel the debate. The Bush administration changed the policy in 2001, no longer requiring judicial nominees at any level to provide tax returns. Instead, the IRS performs a "tax check" of the past three years to detect any problems or disclose if investigations were conducted during that period. "The reason we changed it was an effort to reduce the duplicative paperwork and streamline the process," White House spokeswoman Dana M. Perino said yesterday.
  • The White House did not announce the policy change, and some senior Republicans and Democrats on the Judiciary Committee said yesterday that they were unaware of it. When Democratic staffers learned of the change after queries by The Washington Post, they expressed surprise that the White House would not seek Roberts's tax returns, even if it did not plan to share them with the Senate.
  • Senate Democrats have suggested to Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who is authorized to obtain individual tax returns under prescribed circumstances, that he try to obtain Roberts's. Grassley said yesterday that Democratic staffers approached his aides with the idea, but he signaled he was inclined to rebuff them. "From the standpoint of taxes for justices, I don't know that that has ever been done before," Grassley said.