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House Republicans help shield Trump from scrutiny

Several congressional Republicans are calling on Donald Trump to release his tax returns, even while killing a Democratic measure to make that happen.
Clouds fill the sky in front of the U.S. Capitol on October 7, 2013 in Washington, DC.
Clouds fill the sky in front of the U.S. Capitol on October 7, 2013 in Washington, DC.
Much of the American mainstream continues to believe Donald Trump shouldn't keep his tax returns secret, a sentiment the White House has decided to ignore, putting congressional Republicans in an awkward position. Some have decided to tell their constituents what they want to hear, while casting votes in a different direction on Capitol Hill.

Republican Rep. David Young ignited loud cheers from hundreds at an Iowa meeting last week when he said, "Donald Trump should release his taxes," calling the move a "no brainer."Given the first chance to force the GOP president's hand, Young passed.The two-term, Des Moines-area lawmaker returned to Washington and sided with the Republican majority late Monday to block a Democratic attempt to force Trump to release his tax returns to Congress.

Young isn't the only one. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), for example, held a town-hall event in his conservative Florida district, where he urged Trump to release his tax returns. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) held a tele-town-hall gathering this week and said, "I think he ought to release his tax forms," which was an apparent reference to the president's returns.But like Young, when Gaetz and Frelinghuysen had a chance to force the issue, considering a measure this week from Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.) to force disclosure, they voted with their party. In fact, literally zero House Republicans supported the proposal.Plenty of House Republicans will tell you they want Trump to release the documents the president has hidden from the public, but GOP lawmakers apparently believe disclosure must be voluntary.Democrats didn't really expect the measure to pass, but it's a safe bet votes like these will pop up again next year in 2018 campaign ads.It wasn't, however, the only example this week of Republicans carrying water for the unpopular president. A few hours before Trump's congressional address, this Politico story was largely overlooked, which is a shame because the developments were part of a pattern.

Congressional Republicans killed a Democratic measure Tuesday to pressure the Trump administration to turn over documents detailing President Donald Trump's ties to Russia, as well as conflicts of interest stemming from his business empire.The measure, known as a "resolution of inquiry," was defeated on an 18-16 party-line vote. The resolution would have requested that the Department of Justice provide Congress with "any document, record, memo, correspondence or other communication" related to "criminal or counterintelligence investigations" involving Trump or his White House staff.

Congress has institutional oversight responsibilities over the executive branch. With Republicans in total control of federal policymaking, those duties are too often being neglected to an embarrassing degree.