Schumer ramps up offensive on lack of GOP oversight of Trump's coronavirus response

Schumer ramps up offensive on lack of GOP oversight of Trump's coronavirus response
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSenate to vote next week on Freedom to Vote Act To Win 2022: Go big on reconciliation and invest in Latinx voters McConnell-aligned group targeting Kelly, Cortez Masto and Hassan with M ad campaign MORE (D-N.Y.) and Democratic colleagues sent a letter Tuesday to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden signs bill to raise debt ceiling On The Money — Progressives play hard ball on Biden budget plan Schumer, McConnell headed for another collision over voting rights MORE (R-Ky.) and Republican chairmen urging them to hold oversight hearings on the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.

In a follow-up phone call with the Senate Democratic Conference Tuesday afternoon, Schumer told colleagues that Democrats will make oversight of the Trump administration’s handling of the crisis a major issue in the weeks ahead.

“If we are going to be in D.C. with the coronavirus raging, it is critically important that we continue and actually ramp up our messaging and activities on the oversight front,” Schumer told colleagues in the private call, according to a Democratic source familiar with the meeting. 

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Schumer told colleagues that Senate Democrats "must hold the administration accountable for the mistakes they are making on the small business program, hospitals, testing and more,” according to the source.

Trump's approval rating has dropped in recent weeks as the coronavirus pandemic has worsened and more people have gotten sick and died across the country. 

In addition, the Paycheck Protection Program small-business lending initiative that Trump has touted as a success has come under criticism for giving loans to large, publicly traded companies such as Shake Shack, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse and Potbelly Sandwiches. Those companies have since pledged to return federal aid. 

In the letter to McConnell and Senate Republicans, Democrats noted that while the Senate is scheduled to reconvene in Washington next week “there is currently no scheduled legislative or committee business related to the [coronavirus] public health and economic emergencies.”

Democrats say administration officials and industry leaders and experts should testify on testing capabilities and capacity and whether individual Americans will have to pay out of pocket despite legislation passed to make free testing available. 

They want a hearing on the implementation and access to the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, which has come under fire after reports that major businesses such as the Los Angeles Lakers, a basketball franchise worth an estimated $4.4 billion, secured a $4.6 million federally backed loan.

Democrats want Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks Former Treasury secretaries tried to resolve debt limit impasse in talks with McConnell, Yellen: report Menendez, Rubio ask Yellen to probe meatpacker JBS MORE and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell to testify on the joint Treasury-Fed lending facilities, which have more than $4 trillion in credit-producing firepower, and they want a public hearing on the best ways to protect the health and safety of front line workers.

They also want Labor Secretary Eugene ScaliaEugene ScaliaBiden should keep the new commonsense independent contractor rule Demolition at the Labor Department, too AFL-CIO calls on Trump to resign or be removed from office 'at once' MORE to testify on the implementation of the CARES Act unemployment insurance provisions.

And they are calling on GOP chairmen to schedule confirmation votes for members of the bipartisan Congressional Oversight Commission.

“In addition, there are scores of other issues that require oversight and public hearings in the coming days and weeks ahead. We believe each Committee in the Senate has an important oversight role to play in responding to the COVID-19 emergency,” the Democratic senators wrote in their letter. 

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Though Senate Democrats are calling for the hearings, they also say the GOP leader should ask the Office of the Attending Physician to develop “uniform standards on protecting the public health of senators, employees, and witnesses” who participate.

Schumer on Tuesday morning blasted what he called the administration’s bungled handling of $2.7 billion in coronavirus relief funding passed by Congress in recent weeks.

“This administration has been an abject failure at implementing most of these laws,” Schumer said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” asserting the White House doesn’t have the necessary qualified personnel and focus.

“The executive branch has failed miserably implementing almost all the things Congress has passed,” he added. “I’ve never seen an administration so bad at enacting the laws that Congress has put together.”

On Tuesday’s Democratic call, Schumer urged ranking committee Democrats to reach out to Republican chairmen and request hearings to happen immediately.