Congress moves swiftly to oversee Trump coronavirus response

Congress moves swiftly to oversee Trump coronavirus response

The New York Times reports:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, moving aggressively to scrutinize the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, said Thursday that she would seek to create a special bipartisan committee to oversee all aspects of the government’s response, including how it distributes more than $2 trillion in emergency aid.

The announcement, which drew immediate objections from President Trump and the top House Republican, came as leaders were struggling to determine how Congress could perform its most basic functions — both legislating and acting as a check on a president who has consistently stonewalled attempts at oversight — when lawmakers were scattered around the country with the Capitol shuttered.

The plan to create a select committee, which would require a House vote, reflects a particular sense of urgency among Democrats to keep a close watch on how Mr. Trump carries out the more than $2 trillion stimulus package that he signed into law last week. The measure created vast programs, including a $500 billion corporate bailout program and a $350 billion small-business loan initiative, and provided $150 million for states and cities coping with the coronavirus.

Democrats insisted on attaching strict oversight measures to the bailout money, but Mr. Trump — who was impeached last year on charges of abuse of power and obstructing congressional attempts to investigate — has suggested he has the authority to decide whether an inspector general appointed to oversee it has to share information with Congress.

“Where there is money, there is often frequently mischief,” Ms. Pelosi told reporters on Thursday during a telephonic news conference to replace her usual weekly briefing on Capitol Hill, another tradition upended by social distancing.

Ms. Pelosi said the panel would have subpoena power, meaning it could demand testimony and documents from the Trump administration. That raised the prospect of a new round of constitutional showdowns between Mr. Trump and the Democrat-led House over information about how the administration addressed the coronavirus threat, and its actions as the disease began rampaging across the country. [Continue reading…]

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