WASHINGTON — House Democrats are giving the Trump administration a hard deadline of April 23 to turn over President Donald Trump’s tax returns, pushing back against Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s skepticism over their request for the Presidents’ private records.

House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal, D-Mass., on Saturday sent a two-page letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig rebuffing Mnuchin’s statement earlier last week that Treasury would miss House Democrats’ initial April 10 deadline for the returns.

Mnuchin’s concerns “lack merit,” Neal wrote.

Neal’s latest letter sets the stage for further escalation in the conflict between Congress and the White House, as legal experts have suggested that an outright denial of the request by Mnuchin could be followed by subpoenas or a lawsuit in federal court. Mnuchin so far has only postponed and not rejected the Democrats’ request and said he would confer with the Justice Department.

“Please know that, if you fail to comply, your failure will be interpreted as a denial of my request,” Neal’s letter states.

Earlier this month, Neal wrote the IRS asking for six years of the President’s personal and business tax returns, which Trump has refused to release, breaking decades of precedent for candidates for the White House. In his letter, Neal argues that the IRS has an “unambiguous legal obligation” to turn over the returns under section 6103 of the tax code, which states that the treasury secretary “shall furnish” a request from the congressional committees with tax oversight.

Congressional Republicans and Trump’s personal attorney, William Consovoy, have argued the Democrats’ request risks weaponizing the IRS for partisan political gain, with Consovoy calling it a “gross abuse of power.” Mnuchin’s letter last week said Neal’s request “raises serious issues concerning the constitutional scope of congressional investigative authority.”

Mnuchin revealed in congressional testimony that White House lawyers consulted with Treasury on Trump’s tax returns.

“It is not the proper function of the IRS, Treasury, or Justice to question or second guess the motivations of the committee,” Neal writes in his letter. “Judicial precedent commands that none of the concerns raised can legitimately be used to deny the committee’s request.”

Some legal experts have speculated that Neal may be trying to improve his case by waiting for an outright denial before leveling additional threats.