Top GOP lawmakers push back on need for special oversight committee for coronavirus aid

Top GOP lawmakers push back on need for special oversight committee for coronavirus aid
© Greg Nash

Top Republicans in the House are blasting Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi calls Trump's decision to withdraw US from WHO 'an act of extraordinary senselessness' House Democrats unveil measure to condemn police brutality The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Khanna says President Trump threatening violence against US citizens; Trump terminating relationship with WHO MORE's (D-Calif.) decision to establish a special House committee aimed at overseeing the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyHillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers House punts on FISA, votes to begin negotiations with Senate Rep. Banks launches bid for RSC chairman MORE (R-Calif.) said an additional panel is unnecessary and raised concerns about Pelosi’s selection of Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) to lead the panel.

He cited the South Carolina Democrat's comments on a caucus call last month during which he reportedly told members of his party that “this is a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision” as top lawmakers were negotiating the third stimulus bill.  

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“I have a couple of concerns about this: one who she's naming, Clyburn. It's concerning to me because Congressman Clyburn is the one who thought this crisis was an opportune time to restructure government,” McCarthy told reporters on a call shortly after Pelosi’s announcement.  

“That's not what you should be doing," he said. "You should be taking care of the American public, keeping an economy strong just as it was before and moving forward.” 

Pelosi told reporters the special committee is necessary "to examine all aspects of the federal response to the coronavirus and ensure the taxpayers' dollars are being wisely and efficiently spent."

"The panel will root out waste, fraud and abuse; it will protect against price-gouging, profiteering and political favoritism," she said on a press call Thursday. "The fact is, we do need transparency and accountability."

 

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McCarthy said the provisions in the coronavirus response bills passed by Congress already contain adequate oversight of response efforts and made the case a special committee would be redundant. He also said the existing House Oversight and Reform Committee should have jurisdiction over the issue.

“In the bill that we just passed we had the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, now this is a group of IGs [inspector generals] headed by [acting Inspector General of the Department of Defense] Glenn Fine. We also created the special inspector general for pandemic recovery, and Treasury gave it a $25 million dollar budget, we created the Congressional Oversight Commission inside here where you get an appointment by all the leaders,” he said.

McCarthy noted the lower chamber would have to approve the creation of the panel and that he “doesn’t know when we would get back and vote on this.”

Both the House and Senate are in recess until at least April 20 in an effort to avoid the coronavirus risks associated with working in the Capitol.

Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseHouse pays tribute to late Congressman Sam Johnson on the floor Rep. Banks launches bid for RSC chairman House cancels planned Thursday vote on FISA MORE (R-La.) went as far as alleging Democrats are harassing the president in the midst of the pandemic. 

“You would think after three years of failed investigations and a sham impeachment that resulted in an acquittal would be enough for Democrats to learn their lesson and move on, but apparently even a global pandemic and crisis the likes of which our country has never seen before isn’t enough to stop House Democrats from finding any excuse to continue their harassment of President TrumpDonald John TrumpMichael Flynn transcripts reveal plenty except crime or collusion 50 people arrested in Minneapolis as hundreds more National Guard troops deployed Missouri state lawmaker sparks backlash by tweeting 'looters deserve to be shot' MORE,” he said in a statement to The Hill. 

“Instead of wasting precious time and tax dollars on yet another committee, Democrats should be working with us to ensure American families, workers, and small businesses receive the relief they need to survive. We need to be focused on implementing the largest relief package in American history and protecting the health of our citizens - not repeating the last year of Pelosi’s majority defined by investigations and impeachment."

McCarthy and Scalise's comments come as Pelosi continues to call for Congress to act on a fourth coronavirus response bill. Republican leaders have questioned the need for additional legislation, with both McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSchumer to GOP: Cancel 'conspiracy hearings' on origins of Russia probe Overnight Health Care: Trump says US 'terminating' relationship with WHO | Cuomo: NYC on track to start reopening week of June 8 | COVID-19 workplace complaints surge 10 things to know today about coronavirus MORE (R-Ky.) arguing they should wait to see the results of the first three bills after they take effect.

"I don’t think that’s appropriate at this time. We just passed the largest bill in history — We’ve got to make sure this is implemented correctly,” McCarthy said. 

"And also from the standpoint of working, anything later that we need to do we should have the data and the knowledge to make sure we get it right, that it's targeted of where we go," he added.