WASHINGTON (CN) — Further defining the architecture of the congressional strategy to combat the coronavirus pandemic, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday that she is launching a new committee to oversee the federal response to the outbreak.
The bipartisan Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis will be responsible for overseeing all aspects of Washington’s response to the pandemic that has crippled the U.S. economy and forced the majority of Americans to shelter at home. The House panel’s role will include implementing the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package, known as the CARES Act, signed by President Donald Trump last week.
“The committee will be empowered to examine all aspects of the federal response to coronavirus, and to assure that the taxpayers dollars are being wisely and efficiently spent to save lives, deliver relief and benefit our economy,” Pelosi said during a conference call with reporters.
Selecting House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., to lead the committee, Pelosi said the panel will wield subpoena power.
“The panel will weed out waste fraud and abuse,” the speaker said. “It will protect against price gouging, profiteering and political favoritism.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said he has “concerns” about the committee, calling the body redundant given the current House Oversight Committee and provisions in the CARES Act guaranteeing an inspector general will oversee the response package.
“I’m just wondering, does the speaker not trust the Oversight Committee?” McCarthy said on a call with reporters, adding that Clyburn should not be the one to lead the panel.
The top House Republican said he plans to speak this afternoon with Pelosi about the creation of the committee.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., on Wednesday put forward legislation to model a panel after the 9/11 Commission for the purpose of studying the government response to Covid-19, an idea supported by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif.
Pelosi told reporters she was open to discussing a commission, adding: “We really do have to [be] subject to an after-action review.”
But stressing the select committee is “about the here and now,” the speaker said the new panel is meant to create transparency and accountability, not to investigate the Trump administration.
“Where there’s money there’s also frequently mischief,” Pelosi said.
Despite pushback from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Pelosi appeared confident Wednesday that the House will pass the Democrats’ infrastructure proposal by the end of the month. The earliest Congress plans to return to Washington is April 20, with members currently working from their home states to prevent the spread of Covid-19 on Capitol Hill.
McConnell on Tuesday said he was “not going to allow this to be an opportunity for the Democrats to achieve unrelated policy items that they would not otherwise be able to pass.”
The estimated $770 billion plan rolled out Tuesday represents phase four of the congressional response to the pandemic that has so far left a record 6.6. American unemployed.