New York Senate Passes Bill to Aid House in Trump Tax Fight

At the Capitol in Albany, N.Y., on Wednesday, the New York state Senate considers legislation to authorize the release of individual New York state tax returns to Congress. (AP Photo/Tim Roske)

(CN) – On the morning that President Donald Trump asserted executive privilege over an unredacted copy of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, New York legislators snapped into action Wednesday by authorizing state authorities to turn over those returns at House Committees’ request.

“The fact is that President Trump is taking this country in a very dangerous path,” declared Senator Michael Gianaris, a Queens Democrat.

New York state Senator Michael Gianaris, D-Queens, addresses the Senate on Wednesday about a bill to authorize the release of individual New York state tax returns to Congress. (AP Photo/Tim Roske)

Slamming Republican opposition to the bill, Gianaris added: “They think they’re protecting President Trump.”

“They want to go after criminals, but not when it’s someone in this administration,” he continued, adding that the same conditional idealism is true when it comes to transparency.

Earlier in the day, the state Senate passed a bill plugging the so-called “double-jeopardy loophole,” which would have allowed strategic presidential pardons to prevent prosecution by a separate sovereign under the 1922 Supreme Court precedent U.S. v. Lanza.

State Senate Republicans pilloried both bills as threats to freedom.

“Please let my children to grow up in a place that protects them against government oppression,” said Senator Andrew Lanza, a Staten Island legislator of no relation to the bootlegger in the landmark Supreme Court case. “That’s why we in the state legislature should leave them there.”

Gianaris meanwhile deflated Lanza’s depiction of the legislation as a threat to the fabric of the republic. “My question is what any of his comments have to do with the bill,” Gianaris said.

The double-jeopardy bill, sponsored by Senator Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Island), passed by a 39-22 margin. The tax bill, sponsored by Senator Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), passed by a 39-21.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins announced at a press conference: “Today, we are sending a message that no one is above the law.” 

New York state Senator Andrew Lanza, R-Staten Island, speaks on the Senate floor Wednesday against a bill to authorize the release of individual New York state tax returns to Congress. (AP Photo/Tim Roske)

It was a refrain echoed by several of her colleagues, now that Democrats command a majority of the Legislature for the first time in a decade.

Breathing the fire now of an opposition party, Republicans have described both bills as nothing less than a dismantling of constitutional protections.

The Democrats meanwhile emphasized the narrowness of both bills, saying their legislation applies only to instances of presidents abusing pardon power to protect themselves, their family and their employees.

“From listening to a couple of my colleagues, they possibly don’t understand how limited this is,” Senator Liz Krueger of Manhattan said.

Hoylman, who brought the tax bill, calmed fears that it puts New Yorkers’ returns at risk of congressional inspection.

“The fact is, they already are,” Hoylman said.

The result of the vote was widely anticipated. The Senate Democrats who brought the bills suggested their inevitable passage in titling their press conference “New York State Senate Democratic Majority Stands Up to President Trump,” the morning after The New York Times ran a bombshell report further piercing Trump’s self-made billionaire mythology. 

The article says Trump lost more money than nearly any U.S. citizen on the year his ghostwritten memoir “Art of the Deal” hit bookstores. 

Exposing Trump’s losses between the years 1985 and 1994, the old tax transcripts exposed by the Times shed little light on the source of the president’s income — particularly whether they show compromising influence from foreign governments.

New York state Senator Brad Hoylman, D-Manhattan, center, speaks at a Wednesday news conference in Albany, N.Y., to discuss impending passage of a bill authorizing the release of individual New York state tax returns to Congress at the Capitol. At left is New York Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, and at right is New York state Sen. Michael Gianaris, D-Queens. (AP Photo/Tim Roske)

That is where New York Democrats say they will take the lead.

“This majority has done terrific work standing in where the federal government has failed,” Gianaris said.

Without naming Trump, the bill would authorize state tax officials to release returns filed by seven different types of state and federal officeholders if requested by the leaders of the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee, or the Joint Committee on Taxation. 

To become law, the bill now requires the approval of the Assembly, where Democrats dominate 90 seats in a 150-seat chamber.

Hoylman called the legislation necessary.

“We have a situation in Washington where a coequal branch of government is requesting tax information from the government and it is being stonewalled,” Holyman said.

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