House approves watchdog financial oversight of Mueller

House approves watchdog financial oversight of Mueller
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The House on Friday approved a measure to require financial oversight of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE's investigation.

The amendment, introduced by Rep. Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsTrump to Pence on Jan. 6: 'You don't have the courage' Trump said whoever leaked information about stay in White House bunker should be 'executed,' author claims 'Just say we won,' Giuliani told Trump aides on election night: book MORE (R-N.C.), aims to reinstate a Government Accountability Office (GAO) semiannual audit of special counsels. 

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"A special counsel's work is important, but they should not be able to spend taxpayer dollars without accountability. Americans need to know where their money is going," Meadows said.

The amendment passed 207-201, largely along party lines. 

It will be part of a spending package that includes the first three spending bills of the 2019 fiscal year. It was expected to pass just minutes later.

Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanSix takeaways: What the FEC reports tell us about the midterm elections Schumer, Tim Scott lead as Senate fundraising pace heats up Here's what Congress is reading at the beach this summer MORE (D-Ohio), the ranking member of the legislative branch appropriations subcommittee, said the amendment was nothing more than window dressing.

The measure, he said, would not reinstate the GAO’s semiannual Independent Council review, which was repealed in 2009, because of the way it was drafted.

“The way this amendment is drafted, it doesn’t do anything. It says no funds in the bill can be used to ‘enforce’ a repeal of a provision of law that happened a decade ago. ‘Not enforcing’ a repeal is not the same as reinstating the provision that was repealed,” Ryan said on the House floor.

The measure is unlikely to find support in the Senate, which has yet to take up the spending bills.

Meadows, the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, is among the Republicans who have called for a second special counsel to investigate alleged surveillance abuses at the Justice Department. 

Mueller's budget is not part of the annual Justice Department funding package approved by Congress, falling instead under a special Treasury Department account.

The Justice Department does, however, release statements of expenditure on the special counsel. 

In its May report, the Justice Department said the special counsel had spend $16.7 million in the first 10 and a half months of the investigation into Russia's election meddling and any possible coordination with the Trump campaign.

—Updated at 2:13 p.m.