Pelosi, Schumer must appoint new commissioners to the CARES Act oversight panel
A little over a year ago, I was appointed to the Congressional Oversight Commission (Commission) established by the bipartisan, bicameral CARES Act. The Commission was tasked with oversight of the $500 billion authorized to the Exchange Stabilization Fund at the Treasury. Of this, $46 billion was set aside for the Treasury to provide loans or loan guarantees to, among others, airline companies and businesses critical to national security; the remaining $454 billion was used to support emergency lending facilities established by the Federal Reserve (the “Fed”). I’m proud of our oversight work and our 13 monthly reports.
The Commission is responsible for answering two basic questions:
- What are the Treasury and Federal Reserve doing with $500 billion of taxpayer money?
- Who is that money helping?
Even though the programs the Commission oversees terminated on Dec. 31, 2020, or shortly thereafter, the Commission remains operational and continues to adhere to its statutory obligation to release reports through Sept. 30, 2025.
As outlined in the CARES Act, the Commission was to consist of five members, with the Speaker of the House, the Senate majority leader, the House minority leader, and the Senate minority leader each appointing one member; the fifth member was to have served as chair and was to have been appointed jointly by the Speaker of the House and Senate majority leader. I was honored to be chosen by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to serve alongside my colleagues, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), then-Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.), and Bharat Ramamurti. Unfortunately, despite best efforts, last year, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) did not appoint a chair, and Speaker Pelosi and now-Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) have yet to take any action this year. Despite this, for more than a year, the Commission has continued to operate effectively on a bipartisan and bicameral basis, releasing the mandated reports, conducting three hearings and one agency briefing, and sending many letters to federal agencies.
As part of my oversight work, I have taken a deep interest in and led the investigation of the Treasury’s and Department of Defense’s (DOD) $700 million loan to Yellow Corporation (Yellow), formerly YRC Worldwide, Inc. This loan was made under the statutory requirement of being critical to national security, but as I’ve repeatedly underscored, this loan was a mistake. Based on the oversight work I directed the Commission to conduct, there is no evidence to support Yellow’s being considered critical to national security — which means their loan should never have been executed.
As I said in a previous statement released with the twelfth report on April 30, 2021, the Commission uncovered inconsistencies related to Yellow’s justification for being critical to national security, Yellow’s repeated reliance on the federal government to bail them out, and a lack of transparency by the DOD and the Treasury. Yellow has relied on government intrusion and bailouts to remain operational for far too long. American taxpayers should not have to keep underwriting debt to pay for Yellow’s repeated poor financial decisions to the tune of millions of dollars. In my view, by way of these loans, taxpayers have enriched Yellow shareholders and funded major new fleet equipment — purchases that have nothing to do with the pandemic or national security.
As the Commission moves forward, I will work with the other Commissioners to get clarity on these loans both from the Treasury and DOD and monitor all aspects of these loans. I strongly support good governance and stewardship of taxpayer funds and I am committed to ensuring the government does not make these types of mistakes again.
Disappointingly though, due to lack of attention by Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer, the Commission is currently only operating with two Commissioners: Sen. Toomey and myself. Ramamurti left his position late last year to join the Biden administration, and regrettably Rep. Shalala recently announced that, as of May 21, 2021, she was no longer a commissioner. Even though the Commission never appointed a chair, the commissioners were still able to operate effectively for the American people; however, now, with only two Republicans and no further appointees on the horizon, I am concerned about the Commission’s efficacy.
Despite that many of the programs overseen by the Commission have, by law, wound down, the Commission has a congressional mandate to provide diligent oversight and monitoring of these programs throughout the life of the loan portfolio.
To that end, I urge Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer to appoint replacements on the Commission. Oversight of American taxpayer money is a crucial part of ensuring transparent government.
French Hill represents Arkansas’s 2nd District.