Bipartisan House Panel to Provide Oversight on Federal Coronavirus Response
WASHINGTON – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the formation of a bipartisan select committee to oversee the allocation of trillions of dollars in approved funding to address the coronavirus crisis and ensure taxpayers dollars are “spent carefully and effectively.”
Pelosi told reporters during a conference call Thursday morning that the new House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis will be chaired by Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina.
“The greatness of our nation is its ability to rise to extraordinary challenges, no matter how grim,” Pelosi said early on during the 55-minute session.
But she later noted “where there’s money, there’s also, frequently, mischief.”
“We want to make sure the over $2 trillion we’ve extended to meet this crisis does what it is supposed to do and gets where it’s supposed to go,” Pelosi said.
In announcing the formation of the committee, the House Speaker said the nation finds itself in a situation similar to the one faced in the early days of World War II. At the time, she said, millions of dollars were allocated by Congress to quickly defeat a global menace.
“Then-Senator Harry Truman immediately recognized the urgency of oversight and accountability and making sure the money did what it was supposed to do. The Senate agreed, and put Senator Truman in charge of what was called the Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program,” Pelosi said.
Truman later reflected on why he recognized this need, Pelosi said. Paraphrasing his words, she said that after World War I, more than 116 investigating committees looked into how all the money allocated for the war had been spent.
Truman believed that if a single committee had looked at the spending before the fact, “it would have prevented a lot of waste and maybe even saved some lives,” Pelosi said. “Truman couldn’t have been more right.”
She went on to add that applying Truman’s philosophy “makes even more sense now and will in the coming months as $2 trillion and perhaps more will be spent on coronavirus rescue efforts.”
Pelosi did not provide the names of any of the new select committee’s other members, saying discussions were still ongoing with Democratic and Republican leaders and committee chairs in the House.
She did say the panel will have subpoena power “otherwise, why have an oversight committee,” she said.
“We have no higher priorities then to make sure the money gets to those working families struggling to pay rent and put food on the table,” she said. “The panel will weed out waste, fraud and provide protections against price gouging, profiteering and political favoritism. It will press to ensure that the federal response is based on the best possible science and guided by the nation’s best health experts.”
Pelosi also emphasized that the committee was not established “as a kind of investigation of the administration.”
“It’s about the whole effort. Everything is so new and moving so quickly that we want to make sure there are not exploiters out there,” she said.