Capitol Correspondence - 04.21.20

Congressional Leadership Appoints Members to COVID-19 Funding Oversight Panel

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As a follow-up on this previous story on the challenges surrounding how the federal government distributes the $2.2 trillion authorized for COVID-19 response by Congress in the CARES Act, we are sharing Politico Pro’s reporting below on a recently-created oversight committee.

“Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have tapped two fellow lawmakers as their picks to a five-member congressional commission tasked with overseeing the Trump administration’s implementation of the massive new coronavirus relief effort.

Pelosi, who announced her pick late Friday, named Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.), a former Clinton administration health secretary, while McConnell named Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), a former chairman of the conservative Club for Growth to the so-called Congressional Oversight Commission, which was established in the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief law to oversee the administration’s efforts to shore up distressed industries and companies. The panel is tasked with overseeing a $500 billion fund being doled out by the Treasury Department.

Each Republican and Democratic leader in the House and Senate was charged with naming one member of the panel. Pelosi and McConnell are also charged with jointly selecting a chair of the committee, which they have yet to do. The panel is unlikely to function until a chair is named, and the leaders indicated they were working in recent days to come up with a short list.

In addition to her track record as Health and Human Services Secretary, Shalala sits on the House Education and Labor Committee. Toomey is a member of the Banking, Budget and Financial Services Committees. Last week, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer named Bharat Ramamurti, a former aide to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). And earlier Friday, House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy of California named Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.).

Hill, in his third term, is a businessman from central Arkansas and member of the House Financial Services Committee. He’s just the second appointee to a bipartisan commission meant to be Congress’ main tool to monitor the $500 billion Treasury fund for distressed industries and businesses amid the pandemic. McCarthy revealed the selection during a call with the House GOP caucus Friday and later cited the lawmaker’s experience as a Treasury Department official and private banker in a news release.

The Congressional Oversight Commission is one of three mechanisms created in the $2.2 trillion coronavirus emergency relief package known as the CARES Act, H.R. 748 (116), to monitor implementation of the law. The others also are not yet fully operational.

President Donald Trump has nominated a newly established inspector general for pandemic response — meant to monitor the same $500 billion fund as the congressional panel — but his choice of a White House lawyer for the post has generated controversy and is unlikely to be confirmed for weeks, since lawmakers aren’t scheduled to return to Washington until May 4 at the earliest.

And a panel of current inspectors general was upended by Trump earlier this month when he demoted Glenn Fine, the Pentagon watchdog picked to be the new committee’s chairman. A successor has yet to be named, and inspectors general have been talking to lawmakers about changing the criteria of who may serve as the committee’s leader.

Pelosi has also indicated she intends to launch a new select committee, to conduct oversight of the CARES Act, chaired by Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), but she has yet to name its members and likely will need a House vote to formally establish the panel.

In his announcement of Toomey, McConnell also signaled he would charge Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Wyo.), chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, with overseeing a similar Senate-wide oversight effort to monitor CARES Act implementation.”