House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday announced the creation of a special bipartisan committee to oversee the Trump administration’s coronavirus response and its handling of the $2 trillion economic relief package passed last week.
“Congress has taken an important step in meeting this crisis by passing three bills with over $2 trillion dollars in emergency relief,” Pelosi said in a letter to House members. “We need to ensure those tax dollars are spent carefully and effectively.”
Pelosi said the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus, to be led by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC), “will root out waste, fraud, and abuse. It will protect against price gouging and profiteering. It will press to ensure that the federal response is based on the best possible science and guided by the nation’s best health experts.”
Clashes over oversight: Congressional Democrats worked to include oversight measures in the rescue package, including a requirement for a special inspector general, appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, to report to lawmakers on business loans made under the legislation. But in a signing statement issued when he signed the bill into law, President Trump pushed back on the oversight provisions and indicated that he believes the new inspector general needs his permission in order to provide reports to Congress.
Republicans also questioned Pelosi’s move to create a new committee. “This seems really redundant,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told reporters on a call Thursday, noting that the House already has several committees with jurisdiction over the coronavirus package. “Does the speaker not trust the [House] Oversight Committee?” McCarthy reportedly asked.
McCarthy also raised concerns about Pelosi’s selection of Clyburn to head the panel, since the South Carolina Democrats reportedly had told colleagues that negotiations over a third coronavirus bill were “a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision.” McCarthy also expressed concerns about how the new committee would be created and said that there needs to be a floor vote on the new panel, which could be a problem since lawmakers are away until at least April 20.