Panel to Oversee Virus Relief Spending Still Has Only One Member

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promises that a five-member oversight commission to police a major part of the massive federal coronavirus relief spending “will be in place,” but after two weeks just one member has been appointed.

The reasons for delay in choosing the chairman and three members aren’t clear. The deadline is less than a month away for the first report by the commission, which will oversee about $500 billion of aid — loans, loan guarantees, and investments — to affected industries, including airlines.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is the only one of the four top House and Senate leaders to make his appointment, naming Bharat Ramamurti, a former aide to Senator Elizabeth Warren, on April 6. Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy also name members to the commission, and Pelosi and McConnell will jointly choose a chair.

Aides to Pelosi, McCarthy and McConnell declined to disclose when the appointments might be announced, or why they haven’t been already.

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The commission, which is to designed operate for five years, was established in the $2.2 trillion rescue package passed late last month. It’s modeled after a similar temporary oversight commission that reviewed the Troubled Asset Relief Program during the 2008 economic crisis.

Pelosi, speaking on MSNBC Tuesday night, promised that the commission’s members will be installed, but she gave no timeline.

Asked whether Congress can ensure the coronavirus spending isn’t misspent or subject to corruption, she said, “Well, we have to,” adding that the commission “will be in place.”

She also discussed plans for a separate House committee, to be led by third-ranking House Democrat Jim Clyburn, that will also conduct oversight of the funds. That committee’s purpose will be “to fight waste, fraud, abuse, price gouging, profiteering and the rest,” Pelosi said.

The commission doesn’t have staff even though it’s supposed to issue its first report within 30 days of Treasury’s first distribution of funds. The commission is required to make reports every 30 days after that.

That timeline was triggered April 9 when the Federal Reserve, in coordination with the Treasury Department, announced the rollout of the “Main Street Lending Facility,” a key pillar of the government relief effort that will provide loans to companies with up to 10,000 employees or up to $2.5 billion in annual revenue.

“I’m eager for the commission members to be named and for us to get up and running,” Ramamurti said in an interview earlier this week.

“No matter what part of the country you’re from, no matter your political affiliation, I think you want to see this money used as effectively as possible to help people and to promote the economic recovers,” he said. “My hope is that there’ll be a lot of support in Congress across party lines for this commission acting aggressively to do that.”

— With assistance by Joshua Green

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