International Monetary Fund / Flickr steve mnuchin...
International Monetary Fund / Flickr

The House Ways and Means Committee has been forced to cancel a hearing slated for Thursday after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin declined the committee’s request to appear. Democratic Representative and Committee Chairman Richard Neal insisted that, with the Trump shutdown sliding into its second month, it is urgent that the House hear from Treasury about the economic effects of the shutdown and what steps the White House is planning to remedy the damage of its actions to both government workers and the broader economy.

And there’s one particular looming concern that only Mnuchin can address.

Neal: With tax filing season beginning in five days and the timely issuing of taxpayer refunds at stake, we need to hear directly from the Secretary to gain greater clarity regarding the IRS’ capabilities during the shutdown.

While Neal’s statement says that the committee expects to hear from Mnuchin in the near future, it doesn’t quite indicate how that might happen. CNN reports that Mnuchin and Neal have spoken by phone and that Mnuchin has agreed to appear “soon,” and leaves open the possibility that the Treasury secretary will negotiate a reasonable date with Neal.

But there is one effective way to make certain he appears—a way that Republicans packed away for the last two years, but that Democrats are expected to revive: They could subpoena Mnuchin to appear and hold him in contempt if he does not.

It may not be necessary in this case, but Donald Trump and everyone in the Trump White House need to understand that this option is going to be perennially on the 2019 table. A nice early demonstration would not hurt.

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