The team is back in action. On Thursday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the creation of the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis. The new panel will have the authority to investigate any aspect of the virus emergency and the Trump administration’s handling of it.
Pelosi’s announcement came a day after House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff called for a 9/11-style independent commission to investigate “mistakes” in the virus response. Shortly after that, Schiff told the Washington Post that in Congress, House Democrats must investigate the Trump administration’s handling of virus testing and the government’s distribution of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers.
“We need to make sure there’s no favoritism in terms of political allies, no discrimination against states or governors based on lack of presidential flattery,” Schiff said, indicating the probe would be aimed squarely at President Trump.
Less than three months after sending to the Senate impeachment articles to remove the president from office and less than two months after the Senate trial ended in Trump’s acquittal, the Pelosi-Schiff team is up and running again.
In a “Dear Colleague” letter, Pelosi said she envisions a coronavirus committee along the lines of the Truman Committee, created shortly before World War II to investigate defense spending. Pelosi said the new committee, which will be headed by Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, will be “bipartisan.” It is not entirely clear why the speaker said that; all committees in the House are bipartisan and run by the majority party. The Intelligence Committee, run by Schiff, that pushed impeachment through the House was “bipartisan.” And the new committee will be, too.
Pelosi also stressed that the select committee will oversee the spending of $2 trillion provided for in the latest coronavirus relief bill. That is certainly a huge amount of money, the spending of which will have to be scrutinized for waste. Congress has a legitimate responsibility to oversee such an enormous federal expenditure.
But Pelosi also gave Democrats room to go after Trump for whatever reason they choose. “The committee will be empowered to examine all aspects of the federal response to the coronavirus,” she wrote. Among those powers, she added, will be the ability to “press to ensure that the federal response is based on the best possible science and guided by the nation’s best health experts.” That could mean just about anything.
Republicans are wary of watching Pelosi and Schiff — he told the Post his committee is already examining virus warnings the Intelligence Community reportedly gave the White House — resume their efforts to target the president.
First, some in the GOP argue the recent relief bill had all sorts of oversight mechanisms built into it. That is what a lot of the debate surrounding the bill was about. There is a special “Oversight Commission” to be created in Congress, a “special inspector general” to monitor spending through the Treasury Department, and another committee of inspectors general to watch things. Pelosi and other Democrats insisted on strong oversight measures in the bill and then turned around and created yet another body in the select committee.
“This seems really redundant,” Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said after Pelosi’s announcement.
And then there is the fact that Pelosi’s colleagues were the ones who, during the debate over the relief bill, tried to insert costly Democratic policy priorities that had nothing to do with coronavirus. Many were ultimately left out of the bill, but some, such as $25 million for the Kennedy Center and $75 million for public broadcasting, became law. (The Kennedy Center intensified the outrage when, after the big grant from Congress, it nevertheless stopped paying its musicians.)
“Congress should look into why Nancy Pelosi insisted on $25 million for the Kennedy Center,” said Republican Rep. Brad Wenstrup in a text exchange. “The Center has not been converted to a hospital to treat coronavirus patients, but it’s reported they are laying off most of their staff.” Wenstrup, who is a doctor and wants “after-action reviews” at federal agencies when the virus crisis is over, said he supports a bill for Congress to rescind the $25 million grant.
“I’d rather have a select committee to investigate how so much liberal pork got into the Covid response bill,” texted Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz.
Those are legitimate concerns. But Republicans have yet another worry. Some House Democrats have been engaged in a long campaign to remove the president from office, using whatever weapon — Russia, Stormy Daniels, Ukraine, Michael Cohen, emoluments, whatever — might be available at the moment. Now, the United States is in the midst of a terrible, life-and-death crisis with the virus and its health and economic effects, and the investigation machine is revving up once more.
“It’s the same old, same old,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee. “They never miss a beat to get political and go after the president.”
Author: Byron York
Source: Washington Examiner: With virus crisis raging, Pelosi and Schiff ramp up new Trump investigations