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Don Seabrook: (509)661-5225
Don Seabrook: (509)661-5225
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Supreme Court on Tuesday denied President Donald Trump’s plea to shield his tax returns from being turned over to a House committee.
The decision came in a one-line order with no dissents.
The court’s action has the effect of upholding a longstanding request from House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., for six years of Trump’s tax returns. Neal acted under a law that says the IRS “shall furnish” the committee chairman with “any return or return information” that he requested in writing.
The law does not authorize a public release of any tax returns, including those of a former president. Rather the Ways and Means Committee is authorized to examine the returns in confidence to consider new or revised legislation.
But the long legal battle is ending just as the Democrats are about to lose control of the House, raising doubts about whether Neal’s Republican successor will continue the effort.
Trump and his lawyers had already lost before a federal district judge appointed by Trump and an appeals court panel with two Republican appointees.
Trump, who last week announced he will run for president in 2024, filed an emergency appeal asking the justices to intervene and block the IRS from turning over his tax records to the committee.
Trump’s legal team argued that doing so would “undermine the separation of powers” and leave all future presidents exposed to having their private tax returns exposed by political opponents in Congress.
“No prior Congress has used its legislative power to obtain and expose the private financial information of a president,” Trump’s attorneys said in their final appeal Nov.14.
Moreover, they argued that time had run out on House Democrats.
“The old Congress has only a few days left on its legislative calendar. Though a few days is enough time to improperly expose the most sensitive documents of its chief political rival, it’s not enough time to properly study, draft, debate, or pass legislation,” the Trump legal team said.
Two years ago, the Supreme Court handed down a split decision when it considered two cases involving Trump’s taxes.
In the first, the justices cleared the way for New York prosecutors to obtain Trump’s returns, and those records played a role in civil and criminal charges that were brought against his real estate organization.
In the second case, the court blocked subpoenas from three House committees that sought financial records from the then-president, his family and his businesses.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. cited the “separation of powers” and questioned whether House Democrats had legitimate legislative reasons for seeking personal information from the chief executive.
Trump’s lawyers cited that decision in Trump vs. Mazars in their suit to block Neal from obtaining the now ex-president’s records from the firm that prepared his businesses’ taxes.
Since 1977, presidents had routinely released their tax returns, but Trump refused to do so. And while the IRS had a policy of carefully auditing the returns of the president, Neal said the committee had doubts about whether the agency had looked into Trump’s far-flung holdings.
“Unlike his predecessors, Mr. Trump owned a complex web of businesses, engaged in business activities internationally and had a history of aggressive tax avoidance (as he has boasted),” House lawyers told the court.
In 2019, Trump’s treasury secretary rejected Neal’s request for Trump’s tax returns, arguing it was more of a political ploy than a congressional effort to explore the need for new legislation.
After Trump was defeated in 2020, Neal submitted a new request, and it was approved by the new Biden administration.
Trump then went to court seeking to the block the release.
U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden, a Trump appointee, dismissed his lawsuit last December, and the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington affirmed that decision in August by a 3-0 vote.
McFadden cautioned that his ruling did not authorize the public release of Trump’s taxes.
“Public disclosure of another’s tax returns is a grave offense, and prior committee chairmen have wisely resisted using” the law “to publicize individuals’ returns,” he wrote.
NEW YORK — U.S. airlines and airports are preparing for a surge in passengers over the Thanksgiving holiday, with the number of travelers expected to hit the highest level in three years.
Nearly 55 million Americans will take to the roads, skies and rails for the holiday, with air travel recovering to about 99% of the 2019 levels before the COVID-19 pandemic, travel group AAA estimates.
“I expect most flights to be running very full,” said John Grant, senior analyst at travel data firm OAG. “So finding a seat ... might be quite difficult.”
Weary of coronavirus-related lockdowns, Americans are eager to travel more as the impact of the pandemic eases. However, staffing and aircraft shortages have capped the airline industry’s ability to ramp up capacity, resulting in fewer seats and higher fares for travelers.
Eric Fabricant, 38, of Connecticut, was flying on Monday from Newark International Airport to San Francisco for the holiday and his ticket cost him $800 compared with $250 two years ago.
“I’m always a little bit worried about delays because I don’t feel like the airlines are as reliable,” he said, citing concerns about exposure to COVID-19 on more crowded planes. “Knock on wood that works out.”
Thanksgiving Eve on Wednesday tends to be the busiest day for travel. However, the option to work remotely has allowed many Americans to stretch out their trips and avoid the last-day rush.
The new travel pattern is also expected to ease the pressure on airline operations, said Sharon Pinkerton, a senior vice president at Airlines for America (A4A), an industry trade group. Yet A4A and analysts are advising travelers to pack their patience and arrive early to allow extra time for security.
“We are delighted that (travel) demand is returning,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on Monday at an event at Chicago O’Hare Airport. “I would not say we’re out of the woods ... But I am cautiously optimistic about this week being off to a good start.”
United Airlines expects to carry more than 5.5 million passengers from Nov. 18-30, nearly matching 2019 and up about 12% versus last year. It projects Nov. 27 as its busiest day since the onset of the pandemic.
Delta Air Lines Inc expects to fly close to 6 million customers this Thanksgiving holiday from Nov. 18-29, just shy of the total customers flown over the same period in 2019, the airline said.
Airlines are operating 13% fewer domestic flights during the eight-day Thanksgiving travel period compared with 2019, according to data by Cirium.
While flight delays and cancellations marred U.S. summer travel, airlines say they are better prepared to handle the holiday travel rush for Thanksgiving, which occurs on the fourth Thursday in November.
United said it is on track to hire 15,000 employees this year, while Delta said it has cut its schedule and increased boarding time. A4A estimates major carriers now have 10% more pilots than before the pandemic. Federal officials say they have enough staffing to handle holiday travel as well.
Reduced flights and booming demand, meanwhile, have sent airline fares soaring. Domestic airfare for Thanksgiving is 17% higher than last year and in line with 2019 prices, according travel app Hopper. International airfare is 30% higher than in 2019.
There is also a rise in demand for less expensive travel options including buses and trains.
More than 1.4 million travelers are going out of town for Thanksgiving by bus, train or cruise ship, AAA estimates. That is an increase of 23% from 2021 and represents 96% of the 2019 volume.
The ratio between bus and train bookings has shifted from approximately 50/50 in 2021 to 65/35 in 2022, according to ground and air travel booking site Wanderu. “Buses have never been more competitive in the travel space as they are now,” intercity bus service FlixBus said in a statement to Reuters. The company this year received Thanksgiving travel bookings as early as June, three months earlier than in 2019.
NEW YORK — Makers of everything from toys to tortillas are increasingly setting minimum prices on their goods to maintain profits and limit price cutting as retailers like Walmart Inc and Amazon.com Inc try to grab sales from each other online.
As a result, shoppers face fewer discounts for everyday purchases at a time when inflation is around 8%, and as retailers look to unload hundreds of billions of dollars of excess inventory.
For many years manufacturers set the lowest price at which retailers could advertise certain big-ticket items like TVs. They wanted to stop shoppers who scoped out an item on the showroom floor, and then went online to find it advertised by another retailer at a lower price, from buying it there.
Now, as shoppers stick with the pandemic habit of buying more household basics online, companies such as Colgate-Palmolive Co have in recent months used what are known as minimum advertised price policies on less expensive products like its Optic White Pro Series toothpaste on Amazon, a person familiar with the matter said.
The Pro Series toothpaste, now advertised for about $9.96 on Amazon, is a higher-margin product where Colgate wants to protect its profits amid soaring costs. As a result, consumers have struggled to find a lower advertised price anywhere else.
Toymaker Hasbro Inc requires retailers to keep any advertised prices above its specified levels ranging from $6.99 to $33.99 on Monopoly, Twister, Chutes & Ladders and 21 other games and toys, except during the holiday shopping season, according to a company memo seen by Reuters.
Online shopping for consumer staples, coupled with Amazon’s cut-throat competition with Walmart Inc, have driven makers of many consumer products to put price floors on low-cost products, e-commerce consultants said.
Mr. Tortilla, which makes diet-friendly tortillas sold online by Walmart and Amazon, decided to set a minimum price as it expanded sales, aiming to keep prices level across e-commerce retailers, said Ron Alcazar, the company’s chief operating officer.
“We’re seeing categories adopt (these floors) that never had, like food and beverage,” said Jack Gale, an account executive at PriceSpider, which has seen 120% year-over-year growth in the number of brands using its products that help enforce these price floors since 2018.
While legal in the United States, these policies are illegal in many countries, including across Europe in most cases.
Agreements dictating the for-sale price between retailer and manufacturer are also not legal in some states including California and Maryland.
Amazon’s part in these pricing floors stems from its pledge to offer products priced as low as, or lower than, rivals like Walmart. This compels brands that sell huge volumes of goods on Amazon to set, and then enforce, a minimum price. Otherwise, they face shrinking profits.
Wholesalers to Amazon and sellers on its platform can be penalized by poor placement on Amazon.com, among other practices, if the company finds lower prices on the goods elsewhere, the e-commerce consultants said.
“We have no role in creating them or in their continued adoption,” the Amazon spokesperson said when asked about minimum advertised pricing policies. “Like any store, we reserve the right not to highlight prices that are uncompetitive compared to other major retailers. We always set our prices independently.”
A lawsuit California has filed against Amazon claims suppliers have to agree to rules set by Amazon that ultimately lead brands to adopt and enforce minimum advertised price policies.
U.S. Representative David Cicilline, who is working on proposed antitrust legislation aimed at bringing down prices said, “Amazon routinely abuses its monopoly power to coerce sellers and suppliers, preventing them from offering cheaper prices elsewhere.”
Amazon said in response that it does not prevent sellers from offering lower prices elsewhere.
A 2007 United States Supreme Court decision permitting agreements “within reason” on for-sale prices between retailers and suppliers helped set the stage for the expansion of these price policies.