House approves watchdog financial oversight of Mueller

House approves watchdog financial oversight of Mueller
© Getty Images

The House on Friday approved a measure to require financial oversight of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's investigation.

The amendment, introduced by Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsAmash storm hits Capitol Hill The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - After GOP infighting, Trump Jr. agrees to testify again On The Money: House chairman issues subpoenas for Trump's tax returns | Trump touts trade talks as China, US fail to reach deal | Five things to know about Trump's trade war with China | GOP offers support for Trump on tariffs MORE (R-N.C.), aims to reinstate a Government Accountability Office (GAO) semiannual audit of special counsels. 

ADVERTISEMENT

"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) John RyanThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget CNN announces four more town halls featuring 2020 Dems De Blasio pitches himself as tough New Yorker who can take on 'Don the con' 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The measure, he said, would not reinstate the GAO’s semiannual Independent Council review, which was repealed in 2009, because of the way it was drafted.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 ‘Not enforcing’ a repeal is not the same as reinstating the provision that was repealed,” Ryan said on the House floor.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.