Last week Congress approved a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill. It’s the largest congressional appropriation of any kind in United States history. You might think that this sort of government expenditure would produce bipartisan agreement on a means to ensure that these funds are spent effectively with an emphasis on providing the greatest benefit for the people and businesses impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
Unfortunately, the political harmony that ought to accompany efforts to allocate these funds never materialized. Almost immediately there was opposition from Republicans in Congress, and their official Ministry of Propaganda, Fox News, to a proposed House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis. This committee would just be responsible for oversight going forward. It is not the sort of investigative committee that would seek to understand how the crisis developed and how to avoid similar tragedies in the future (which Reps. Bennie Thompson and Adam Schiff are exploring).
Nevertheless, the featured story on the Fox News website carried a blatantly biased headline reading “Pelosi Power Play: New House coronavirus oversight committee will have ability to subpoena Trump administration.”
The clear intention of that language was to spin the proposed committee as a Democratic effort to harm Trump. It characterizes House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as a power monger who intends to hector Trump with subpoenas. In fact, the committee will be a bipartisan panel aimed at protecting taxpayer funds and ensuring that the people’s best interests are served. Pelosi’s announce says in part…
“We have no higher priority than making sure the money gets to those working families – struggling to pay rent and put food on the table – who need it most. The panel will root out waste, fraud, and abuse. It will protect against price gouging and profiteering. 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.
“The House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis will be bipartisan and have an expert staff. The committee will be empowered to examine all aspects of the federal response to the coronavirus to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being wisely and efficiently spent to save lives, deliver relief and benefit our economy.”
That hardly seems controversial. Both parties should be supporting the objectives of this committee. And yet, Republicans in congress are already complaining on partisan grounds. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy wasted no time complaining that he thought the committee would be “really redundant,” and expressed his opposition to the appointment of Rep. Jim Clyburn as chairman. Greg Walden, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, called the select committee a “mistake,” and “costly.” Apparently he thinks that the potential for waste, fraud, and abuse, would be less costly.
The need for oversight of federal spending shouldn’t be so contentious. However, there are those who are simply averse to being held accountable. Notable among them is the President, who regards any practical supervision as an intrusion on his perceived authority. When asked about the lack of accountability in an early draft of the relief bill, Trump laughably told reporters that “I’ll be the oversight.” No one in their right mind would be comfortable with that. Trump is forbidden from running a charity after a court found that his family foundation was misusing funds. His “university” was shuttered, and he paid out millions in compensation, after it was ruled to be fraudulent. He’s declared bankruptcy at least six times.
When Trump signed the relief bill, he included a signing statement that disputed some of the oversight provisions, including the authority of a new inspector general to notify Congress if the executive branch was not providing requested information. That’s a move explicitly designed to conceal misconduct.
It’s also further evidence that Trump cannot be trusted to spend the relief funds honestly or fairly. This is, after all, the same guy who said that he would not return the calls of governors who he didn’t think treated him right. If anyone ever needed oversight, it’s Trump. But while his Republican comrades and, of course, Fox News, would let him run wild, the American people must not. And that is sufficient justification for this House Select Committee, despite whining from the right.
UPDATE: And, of course, Trump weighs in by calling the proposed oversight committee a “witch hunt,” because he knows that oversight will reveal his corruption.
How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.