A new bipartisan House select committee has been formed to oversee the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and the distribution of $2 trillion in relief funds to prop up a battered economy.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the oversight committee will be comprised of both Democrats and Republicans. It will be led by House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC).
“We face a deadly virus and a battered economy with millions of Americans suddenly out of work,” Pelosi said in a statement. “Congress has taken an important step in leading this crisis by passing three bills with over $2 trillion in emergency relief. We need to ensure those dollars are spent carefully and effectively.”
In addition to ensuring the U.S. government’s response to the coronavirus crisis is “based on the best possible science,” and the guidance of leading health experts, the new watchdog panel “will root out waste, fraud and abuse” and protect the massive stimulus from “price-gouging, profiteering and political favoritism,” Rep. Pelosi said.
In a press conference Thursday, the speaker told reporters that the committee will focus on “the here and now” of the pandemic response and stimulus relief. She indicated that the Trump Administration’s initial response to the growing pandemic would likely come under review in the future, when appropriate.
The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 continues to soar in the U.S. As of writing there are nearly a quarter-million cases of the virus – more than any other country. More than five 5,100 coronavirus-related deaths have been confirmed so far.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the government’s coronavirus response team, predicts that millions of Americans will contract coronavirus, resulting in 100,000 to 214,000 deaths. Hospital systems in most major U.S. cities are already starting to become overwhelmed with new cases.
The pandemic has forced the lockdown of schools and businesses across the country, leading to a record 6.6 million unemployment claims last week. The federal government is currently working out a plan to allocate relief funds to individuals and families, small businesses, state governments, and corporations, all of which have been distressed by the pandemic that’s forcing most Americans to stay home.
Stimulus funds will include $300 billion in direct payments to households, $350 billion in loans to small businesses, and $500 billion in loans and grants for large companies and state and municipal governments. Federal assistance to state governments will largely be made up of extra funds for unemployment claims.
Democrat leaders have been concerned that legislation surrounding the stimulus package doesn’t go far enough in protecting the taxpayer money from corporations and executives that could receive a disproportionate share or use it for personal gain. Rep. Pelosi at one point called the relief bill a “slush fund.”
“The importance of this committee’s work cannot be overstated,” Rep. Clyburn said in a statement about the new committee, according to NBC News. “Just as the Truman Commission in the 1940s investigated waste, corruption, and fraud during World War II at the Defense Department, this select committee is tasked with oversight of how the federal government spends the taxpayer-funded $2 trillion allocated by Congress to address the COVID-19 crisis.”