But Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., expected to lead the House when the new Congress starts in January, said she believes the White House will fight the request, "so the question is where do we go from there."
Pelosi's comments reflected Democrats' struggle to balance liberal voters' antipathy and suspicions of Trump against the likelihood of a long legal struggle and uncertain political gains. Trump, a wealthy real estate baron, shunned decades of tradition by presidential candidates and refused to release his tax returns during his 2016 campaign. He said he was being audited, even though IRS officials have said taxpayers under audit are free to release their returns.
The law says the chairs of three congressional committees can request tax returns and the Treasury secretary "shall furnish" them for panel members to review privately. Pelosi told reporters that the House Ways and Means Committee "will take the first steps" toward obtaining the documents.
Democrats would love to explore numerous questions about Trump's personal financial webs. Those include whether there are conflicts of interest between his companies and his presidential actions, whether he's properly paid taxes and whether he benefited from last year's mammoth, Republican-written tax bill.
Even so, a court battle over the request could take years to resolve. Some are concerned Trump could cast himself as being persecuted by Democrats attempting to use the IRS to pursue their political enemies and warn his conservative backers that they might be next.
Democrats have said the first bill they introduce next year will include language requiring presidents to release their tax returns.