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Republicans take new steps to keep Trump's tax returns secret

Some Republicans agree Donald Trump should release his tax returns. But when given a chance to do something about it, they balk.
History mandates presidential candidates release tax returns, but not how many
History mandates presidential candidates release tax returns, but not how many
At a White House press briefing last week, Press Secretary Sean Spicer briefly flubbed a line before correcting himself. "I think there's a huge appetite," he said, "for tax returns, tax reform."He meant to say the latter, not the former, but in a way, Spicer accidentally told the truth: the public appetite for Donald Trump's tax returns is real, and despite the ongoing efforts to keep the materials secret, calls for the president to be transparent, as all of his modern predecessors have been, aren't going away.Neither are efforts to force Trump to disclose the materials he doesn't want the public to see. The Huffington Post reported:

Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee voted down a measure offered by Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) to force President Donald Trump to release his tax returns to the committee.In a party-line vote on Tuesday, 24 committee Republicans voted against the measure and 16 Democrats voted for it.

In case you're wondering why the GOP-led committee brought up the issue at all, Roll Call reported that it wasn't by choice: Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) had to bring up Bill Pascrell's bill, which would've directed the Treasury Department to provide lawmakers with the tax returns, because Dems forced the issue "under a procedural tool known as a resolution of inquiry."But forcing a vote obviously doesn't produce a favorable outcome.For those keeping score at home, this is the third time Republicans have been forced to vote on the issue, and in each instance, they've voted to help shield Trump from scrutiny. That's not terribly surprising, of course, but some of these GOP lawmakers have told their constituents they actually want Trump to release his returns.Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), for example, held a town-hall event in his conservative Florida district, where he publicly encouraged Trump to release his tax returns. Yesterday, however, Gaetz, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, voted with his party to help keep the tax returns under wrap.The White House continues to insist, meanwhile, that the issue is of no interest outside elite Beltway circles, but the evidence to the contrary is hard to miss. The Boston Globe reported last week:

The effort to pass legislation requiring presidential and vice presidential candidates to release five years of tax returns in order to appear on individual state ballots began as a novel bill in Trump's home state of New York. It has now ballooned to half the nation. On Tuesday, Delaware became the 25th state to introduce a bill nearly identical to New York's.In a few weeks, Maine state Representative Seth Berry, a Democrat, said he expects his bill — No. 26 -- to be formally introduced. In fact, once Maine is added to the mix, five of the six New England states -- all but New Hampshire -- will have taken up the legislation.

Not bad for an issue no one cares about, right?