Rep. Richard Neal is more of a workhorse than a show horse. But as the one-time mayor of Springfield enters his 30th year in Congress, he is about to become one of the most powerful figures on Capitol Hill.
When the new Democrat-controlled House takes over in January, Neal will be one of its most influential leaders: chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, which oversees taxes, medicare, social security, trade, pensions and welfare.
“There are really few positions in Washington that can move markets,” Neal said.
More intriguing for Democrats is that Neal will be one of only two members of Congress — and the only Democrat — with the right to request the president’s tax returns, making him the key point person in his party’s quest to look into Donald Trump’s finances.
Like most Democrats, analyst Steve Kerrigan thinks Trump wouldn’t mind releasing his taxes if he weren’t hiding something. Kerrigan says the tax returns would reveal not only how Trump made his money, but where he invested it.
“I think this has to do with who he owes money to," Kerrigan said. "Are they Chinese banks, are they Saudi banks, are they Russian banks? And more importantly, how much taxes has he paid?”
Asked how and when Neal will ask for the release of the tax returns, Neal did not provide specifics.
“We have not established a timetable," he said. "Understanding that this has to be done with great legal care.”
Through a rarely used section of the tax code, Neal has the power to subpoena the returns, though it’s a process that could take many months.
Neal adds that divulging the details of the returns would also be illegal. His hope is that the Trump administration will hand over the returns — like every other president has done since the 1970s. Neal said this would allow his committee to move onto other work, like healthcare, infrastructure and taxes.