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Congressional Corner With Richard Neal

Congressman Richard Neal
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President Trump’s tax returns are still cloaked in mystery.

In today’s Congressional Corner, Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal wraps up his conversation with WAMC’s Alan Chartock.

This conversation was recorded April 9th.

So here we are with Richie Neal, my Congressman, first district of Massachusetts, and in my opinion, the best congressman we have in the country. But let me, aside from that, let me ask you about your lawsuit. The famous lawsuit in which you, and you're entitled to it under the federal law, ask for Trump's tax returns, and we all knew he would stall it as long as he could. Let’s reprise. Do we have any idea why he is so adamant about not getting those tax returns out?

No, I don't, but I thought that the law was clear. That's 6103. And it says, essentially, that there are three people that could ask for a president's tax returns, and one would be the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. Two would be the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and three would be the Chairman of the Joint tax committee. And that is how the process has played out in the past. There’s ample precedent for the request and recalling that presidents since Richard Nixon have voluntarily relinquished their tax forms, and in this particular instance, it's an active court case. So be very careful about what I have to say. But I do think that the law is on our side. And I know that there is a in the federal court in Washington, the judge that holds the case, he is currently waiting to see what another court will do with similar requests that have been made of the administration. And it's probably best just to leave it at that.

But I get that I get that and I respect it, but we may all be dead and buried by the time those courts let it out. That's what my worry is.

Well, you can be sure that the Ways and Means Committee tax staff and the Speaker's office, the chief tax counsel for the house, he has consistently offered what I think is sound advice. He has argued four times in front of the Supreme Court. He was in the Justice Department for 40 years. And he has counseled me carefully as to how to proceed, and I have subscribed fully to his advice.

OK, but you're not gonna speculate on why he doesn't want to see us those tax returns?

I think there's an inconsistency to the extent that during the campaign, he indicated clearly that he was going to do it and then subsequently decided not to do it, and then so that the tax forms were under audit. And the IRS indicated that that should not be an impediment to seeing the forms.

Are you concern edthat Jared Kushner is playing an inordinate role? You know, it's the official son-in-law of this guy coming out before the Pence committee and commission was saying that basically, as Al Haig once said, “I'm in charge. What do you think of that?”

Well, I don't know that there's any official portfolio here that has been described in terms of the constitutional responsibility inside of the White House. And I think that it seems to me as though it's kind of make it up as you go. If there's any sort of a challenge or crisis, then all of a sudden somebody is subsequently just chosen without any congressional oversight or review, and then the individual is, we're told that the individual will have broad responsibility in the case of Kushner, only to discover that there's a new responsibility six months later, before we get a chance to review whether or not the last one was successful.

HR3, the famous, the famous prescription drug bill, which so many Americans are waiting for, there's no question that it goes through the House of Representatives, but what about the Senate? Is it any indication that McConnell will do something?

I don't think he will. That was a pretty good piece of work. I think the House Ways and Means Committee did a really good job on it. I think that we took the responsibility and came up with a very serious proposal to address the issue. I think the trick here is pretty important and that is not to kill innovation. But if you can't afford innovation, what good is it? And I think that we all long for the successful discoveries that will come along, but at the same time, I think when you look at the investment, there has to be at a better equilibrium to it. So I think that the bill that we came up with HR3 was a good one. We were able to establish that in the committee, bring it to the House floor. And I don't think there's very much of a chance that Senator McConnell will take it up on the Senate side. No.

Now, I know you guys do polling, but let me ask you this. Is there any chance, in your opinion that the House could go Republican and take it out of the Democratic hands?

I mean, I don't see that when you look at the seats that are in play. I don't think that that is, I mean, let's describe it this way. I think that the incumbents on our side that won two years ago, I think they're well organized. They've done the due diligence, I think every part of the paradigm that was necessary to undertake, they've done that. And it was pretty impressive class. They were all very successful. And I think that when you meet them, it's a pretty impressive lot. So I, my guess is that that we will hold on to the House and I think that the Senate is entirely competitive. We got a couple of breaks in Colorado and in Montana with two late announced candidates. So I think that there is a pretty good likelihood that the Senate will be right down to the last second on the clock.

OK, so let me let me ask you about the Kennedy/Markey race. Have you made an endorsement in that? You have.

I've been friendly with Eddie Markey and Joe Kennedy for a long time. And when Ed called early on when he had an opponent, it wasn't Joe Kennedy, and he asked for help. And we all said yes in the delegation, and then as the Joe Kennedy's candidacy emerged, I think that that we all stayed with our word on it, which I think is really important in public life in. Joe Kennedy is a very good friend of mine; Eddie Markey is a good friend of mine as well.

Any insights into how that's going?

I think as I watched the, as I watched the alignments develop, I thought it was fairly predictable. I thought that one of the parts of it that I thought was interesting was that Joe Kennedy seemed to do well with people over 65, which is not part of the current argument that takes place across America. We’re constantly told of this new millennial vote that is out there. So for the younger candidate to have senior support and for the older candidate to have younger support is a bit of a juxtaposition.

Richie Neal, I know that you're the head of the Friends of Ireland the in the House of Representatives, and as you know, I love talking to you about this because I always learn something from you, but now I have a personal question to ask. My wife says that if Trump wins, she wants to move to Ireland.

Well, I will tell you this there, there are very, they are very welcoming people.

Where should we go? I mean, what's the right what's the right place to live in Ireland right now? Which by the way, we’re not going anywhere.

Well, you'd be hard pressed to find a more beautiful area than the west coast, the southwest coast where many of the constituents that we have across western and central Massachusetts came from, particularly the Dingle Peninsula.

Is the country being democratic, small “d,” these days or are they having the same problems everybody else is having around the world?

Well, they have a parliamentary system that is pretty consistent with Europe. So they've had trouble now forming a government even though there was an election. The problem is that the election offered three closely gauged parties, you know, Gael, Fáil, Sinn Féin, they all emerged within about two points of each other so it's been very difficult for them to assemble a government. So in the absence of a government being formed, right now, the Fine Gael government is still in charge.

And Sinn Féin has been resurrected from the days when people really were thinking that they were dangerous characters?

It's interesting because they've mainstreamed and this time around they did very well in the Irish parliamentary elections. And they, generally it's been regarded as a northern party, even though they they're the only political party that exists in the north and the south of the country.

OK, one last question. Now we can go. Is mail-in voting a good idea, and are we going to have it nationwide and particularly in Massachusetts?

I think we should prepare for it. And I think it is a good idea. But I also think that if we already do it, I mean absentee ballots are a way of life. I frequently have to vote with an absentee ballot because Congress generally goes into session on Monday night. So I always will go to the City Hall on a Monday and cast my vote. On a paper ballot and handed into the registrar, and on other occasions where people have to send them in because they are immobile, or something along those lines, I think it's fine. I do think that Election Day is also a social and public gathering. So where people want to go out in a beautiful November day and vote, I think that it does build a sense of community. So I just think that we need to have that opportunity for people who can't vote or wanna vote by mail to be able to do it. And the other thing, I would just say this, and I feel very strongly about this. If we've learned anything in the last few years, you need a paper trail.

You do and we also have learned I believe that the Republicans don't like to extend the franchise in other words…

No, they don't.

You said no, they don't and let's leave it there.

No, they don't.

OK, let's leave it there with Congressman Richie Neal, my congressman, first beautiful district of Massachusetts and Richie, good luck in all that you're doing, everything, all the best.

Dr. Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the University at Albany. He hosts the weekly Capitol Connection series, heard on public radio stations around New York. The program, for almost 12 years, highlighted interviews with Governor Mario Cuomo and now continues with conversations with state political leaders. Dr. Chartock also appears each week on The Media Project and The Roundtable and offers commentary on Morning Edition, weekdays at 7:40 a.m.