(Bloomberg) -- A judge put House Democrats' lawsuit seeking President Donald Trump's federal tax returns on hold, telling attorneys for both sides he's awaiting a U.S. appeals court ruling on whether lawmakers can make ex-White House counsel Don McGahn testify.
U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden in Washington issued the ruling on Tuesday following a telephone conference with the attorneys. He revealed his decision in a single-sentence docket entry without elaborating on his reasoning.
The House Ways and Means Committee sued the U.S. Treasury Department and its Internal Revenue Service in July to force them to turn over six years of the president's tax records after an earlier request by letter was rebuffed by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. McFadden heard arguments on Nov. 6.
Read More: Judge Signals He Supports House Quest for Trump Tax Returns
In August, the House Judiciary Committee filed suit seeking an order forcing McGahn to obey a subpoena for his congressional testimony. He spurned the subpoena at the direction of the president. U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson ruled for the House in November, and the administration immediately appealed. Arguments in that case were heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington on Jan. 3.
McFadden was appointed by Trump; Jackson, by Barack Obama.
Both cases turn on whether Congress can sue the executive branch, said Andy Grewal, a tax and law professor at the University of Iowa.
"That is a deeply debated and uncertain question, present in both controversies," Grewal said. "In McGahn, the case is treated as the House suing the executive branch, even though McGahn is now a private person. And in the tax returns case, you have a lawsuit directly between the House and the Treasury."
The Ways and Means committee, the Justice Department and Trump attorney William Consovoy didn't immediately respond to emailed requests for comment on the court's decision. A transcript of the telephone conference wasn't immediately available.
Read More: Ex-White House Counsel Ordered to Testify to House Panel
The tax returns case is Committee on Ways and Means v. U.S. Department of the Treasury, 19-cv-1974, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).
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