An opponent of offshore tax havens, Sen. Carl Levin this year attached a provision to the Senates highway bill that would have allowed the Justice Department to combat tax avoidance.
The Levin brothers are lashing out at a fellow son of Michigan, drawing attention to Mitt Romney’s tax returns, which have become a favorite Democratic talking point against the presumptive GOP presidential nominee. In the process, the two Michigan Democrats are highlighting their long crusade against offshore tax havens.
The pair want to amend the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 to require presidential candidates to release 10 years’ worth of tax returns and fully disclose all assets and bank accounts.
House Ways and Means ranking member Sander Levin said Romney should release a decade of tax returns and information about his offshore bank accounts.
“Gov. Romney needs to immediately release his tax returns and also explain [them] so they’re understandable to the American people, to the typical family,” he said. “Gov. Romney should set the example and release his returns. More and more, there is the understanding that he should do so.”
The information is particularly important, he said, because Congress might consider overhauling the tax code next year.
“I think we should have some understanding about what has been the past practices of candidates,” he said.
Speaker John Boehner and Republicans leaders, though, have little patience for talk of Romney’s tax returns. When asked about the issue at a Wednesday press conference, Boehner returned to his favored talking points on the economy. “It is not about the tax returns. It’s about the economy,” he said.
“The American people are asking, ‘Where are the jobs?’ They’re not asking where in the hell the tax returns are,” the Ohio Republican said. “This is another sideshow intended to draw the American people’s attention away from the real issue, and the real issue is that the president’s economic policies have failed.”
Arizona Sen. John McCain, the GOP standard-bearer in 2008, made similar comments Tuesday.
House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, a Romney surrogate who is also in the running to be the candidate’s vice presidential choice, said he’d defer to the campaign on the issue.
“These side issues are merely distractions from the task at hand, which is that the president is not leading, and as a consequence of that, Americans are hurting,” the Wisconsin Republican said.
The comments do not bode well for the legislation’s chances of coming to the House floor, as Republicans have little incentive to embarrass their candidate before the elections.