Blue Dogs Pushing for Improved Oversight in Pandemic Response Legislation

July 17, 2020 by Reece Nations
BACK ROW (LEFT TO RIGHT): Rep. David Scott (GA-13), Rep. Ed Case (HI-01), Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (NM-02), Rep. Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05), Rep. Max Rose (NY-11), Rep. Charlie Crist (FL-13), Rep. Jim Costa (CA-16), Rep. Mikie Sherril (NJ-11), Rep. Ben McAdams (UT-04), and Rep. Sanford Bishop (GA-02). FRONT ROW (LEFT TO RIGHT): Rep. Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL-03), Blue Dog Co-Chair Kurt Schrader (OR-05), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Communications Lou Correa (CA-46), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Administration Stephanie Murphy (FL-07), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Policy Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Whip Anthony Brindisi (NY-22), Rep. Kendra Horn (OK-05), Rep. Abigail Spanberger (VA-07), and Rep. Joe Cunningham (SC-01). NOT PICTURED: Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05), Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15), Rep. Collin Peterson (MN-07), Rep. Brad Schneider (IL-10), and Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-05)

WASHINGTON – Members of the Blue Dog Coalition issued a letter urging congressional leaders to include measures to further protect taxpayer dollars in the next round of pandemic response funding. 

The coalition, founded on fiscal responsibility and centrist-ideals, highlighted the fact that more than 1 million stimulus payments were sent to deceased Americans.

The letter was circulated by the caucus in response to a Government Accountability Office report which laid out substantial issues with federal legislation related to COVID-19 pandemic response. Notably, the revelation that the Department of the Treasury mistakenly dispersed almost $1.4 billion to departed individuals was outlined and addressed.

The following members joined the Blue Dog Coalition in signing the letter: Reps. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga.; Jim Cooper, D-Tenn.; Jim Costa, D-Calif.; Joe Cunningham, D-S.C.; Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J.; Kendra Horn, D-Okla.; Daniel Lipinski, D-Ill.; Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J.; Abigail Spanberger, D-Va.; and Xochitl Torres Small, D-N.M.

“Never before in our history has Congress spent so much money so quickly as we have in response to COVID-19,” the text of the letter read. “Unprecedented spending, while necessary, creates an unprecedented opportunity for funds to be misused and other forms of mischief. Although the administration has taken limited steps to increase transparency and accountability, it is incumbent upon Congress to further strengthen oversight.”

Furthermore, the coalition recommended provisions that protect federal whistleblowers and inspectors general from “partisan firing without cause.” Other provisions aimed at government transparency and record-keeping were mentioned in the letter.

The Blue Dog Coalition cited several proposed solutions to include in subsequent pandemic-response measures. The Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act, Inspectors General Independence Act of 2020, and the Taxpayers Right-To-Know Act were each endorsed by the coalition.

Of these measures, both the Taxpayers Right-To-Know and Stopping Improper Payments acts had bipartisan co-sponsors. Nearly $6 trillion in taxpayer dollars has been authorized for economic support in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Previously, the coalition helped secure several oversight measures within the CARES Act. These measures dictated the creation of a special inspector general in the Treasury Department and the establishment of a committee dedicated to pandemic response accountability through the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency within the executive branch.

“During this pandemic, every federal dollar wasted is a dollar less to support our health care system, our workers, and our businesses,” the letter continued. “Protecting taxpayer money should be the ultimate bipartisan cause, and the American people are counting on us to get this right.” 

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