House Ways and Means Committee chair Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) picked up a primary challenger on Monday in the form of a local mayor who assailed Neal for failing to respond to the “urgency in this moment.”
Alex Morse, the mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts, released a two and a half minute opening campaign video on Sunday positioning himself as a progressive challenger to Neal, who has served the Massachusetts 1st Congressional district for 30 years.
“There’s an urgency in this moment in our country, and that urgency is not matched by our current representative in Congress,” Morse said in the video.
Neal, the only Democrat in Congress empowered by the tax code to request and receive the president’s taxes, has faced criticism from activists over the length of time it took to issue the initial request.
Neal requested six years of Trump’s personal and business returns on April 3.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin denied the request and a subsequent subpoena in May. The Ways and Means Committee responded in July with a lawsuit demanding that the Trump Administration comply with the House’s request and subpoena, a delay that led to further criticism of the Massachusetts lawmaker.
“You’re going to have to, I think, resist the emotion of the moment,” Neal told reporters in January 2019, arguing that he needed to take the time to lay the groundwork for the request in the event of a lawsuit. “This is likely to become the basis of a long and arduous court case.”
Neal was not wrong in that prediction. At the same time, he now faces criticism for not using a law recently passed by New York State that would make state tax returns available to Congress.
The Ways and Means chair has argued that doing so would weaken the House’s argument in court while activists accuse Neal of dragging his feet on holding the President accountable.