Democrat who refuses to request Trump's tax returns draws a primary challenge

As we discussed here recently, New York State passed a special law aimed squarely at Donald Trump (which is likely an unconstitutional bill of attainder) that would allow the release of President Trump’s New York State tax returns. Beyond the constitutional questions, there was one other small hitch in this scheme. The law wouldn’t allow New York to expose them or do much of anything with the documents. It would only allow their release to specific committees in Congress. And in order for that to happen, somebody would have to ask for them.

Well, that still hasn’t happened. The “somebody” in question would be Democrat Richard Neal of Massachusetts, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, who Ed Morrissey wrote about this morning. And thus far, he’s shown no interest in New York’s offer. This has resulted in some of his further left colleagues back home growing rather angry at his lack of initiative. Mayor Alex Morse of Holyoke was incensed enough to announce that he would be challenging Neal in the primary next year. (NBC News)

In a sign of progressives’ anger, a Democrat on Monday announced that he will take on Neal, a moderate who has been in office since 1989, in a primary.

“There’s an urgency to this moment in Massachusetts’ 1st District and our country, and that urgency is not matched by our current representative in Congress,” Holyoke, Massachusetts, Mayor Alex Morse said in a video announcing his candidacy. “We need new leadership that understands that we can no longer settle for small, incremental and compromising progress. We need to be on offense.”

The progressive magazine The American Prospect also has repeatedly taken issue with Neal’s leadership, saying his committee “has shown none of the zeal for oversight exhibited by its counterparts.”

For his part, Neal is saying that requesting the returns now would be premature and might even bog down their efforts to get Trump’s federal returns. Going the state route with New York should be seen as a last-ditch measure after all other options have failed. But a position like that smacks of common sense and moderation, neither of which is currently in vogue in Democratic circles.

There was a time when I would have written this off as a bitter local party member blowing off steam. But with the way some ranking incumbents have been biting the dust in primaries, facilitating the party’s shift further to the left, nothing is a sure bet anymore. If there’s one certain way to tick off the further left elements of the Democratic base these days, it’s to be seen as someone who is insufficiently angry with the Bad Orange Man and failing to do everything in your power to thwart him. Mayor Morse could probably just cut a single campaign ad about Neal refusing to request the tax returns and build his entire primary campaign around that.

But could Neal actually be vulnerable? His district (and state) would be giving up a huge amount of seniority if he were replaced. Also, he’s been relatively untouchable since Reagan was in the White House. He wins every election with ease in a very blue district. Of course, having typed those two sentences, they sound oddly reminiscent of Joe Crowley, so who knows?