WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives ramped up their efforts to force the release of President Donald Trump's tax returns, calling it a critical issue of transparency and national security.
House Democrats said they would use a parliamentary procedure to file a petition aimed at forcing a vote on legislation requiring U.S. presidents to disclose multiple years of federal income tax filings.
Representatives for the White House and House Speaker Paul Ryan did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Trump, a Republican and New York real estate developer who touted his business acumen in the 2016 presidential campaign, defied decades of precedent by candidates when he refused to release his tax returns, saying they were under audit. The Internal Revenue Service says audits pose no obstacle to releasing tax returns.
Democrats, for their so-called discharge petition to move forward, would need to obtain signatures of support from the majority of the 435 lawmakers in the Republican-controlled House.
Such a move could be a long-shot given that just two Republicans, Representatives Mark Sanford and Justin Amash, have signed on to sponsor the proposed bill that would then see a vote.
The petition is the latest effort by Democrats on the issue as just two glimpses of Trump's taxes have surfaced in media reports on his 1995 and 2005 filings.
Democrats say Trump's taxes are a national security issue given congressional investigations into possible ties between Russia and his campaign. They also cite concerns over potential conflicts of interest with his privately held global businesses.
"How do we know when he makes policy decisions or, you know, trade deals ... with foreign countries that he is looking out for the American people and not lining his own pockets?" Democratic Representative Bill Pascrell said to reporters.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Grant McCool)