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Clyburn Tapped to Chair Coronavirus Committee after Calling Pandemic ‘Tremendous Opportunity’ to Achieve Dem Spending Goals

Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) talks to reporters ahead of a vote in the House of Representatives on a coronavirus economic aid package on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 13, 2020. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) announced Thursday that she is tasking Majority Whip James Clyburn (D., S.C.) to lead a House oversight committee to ensure the government’s coronavirus funds “are spent wisely and effectively.”

“The panel will root out waste, fraud and abuse; it will protect against price-gouging, profiteering and political favoritism,” Pelosi told reporters on a press call. “The fact is, we do need transparency and accountability.”

She later added that the bipartisan committee would have subpoena power to carry out its tasks, and specifically cited the Truman Committee — formed by Congress during World War II to address profiteering and other abuses — as a guide.

“Where there’s money there’s also frequently mischief, and we want to just make sure that the funds that are expended, that are put out there, are done so with the conditions that we had in the legislation,” she said.

Clyburn drew the ire of Senate Republicans after he told caucus members on a call about provisions in the phase-three coronavirus package that the Senate’s bill was “a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision.”

After Clyburn’s comments, Pelosi flew into Washington D.C. as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) was negotiating with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.). Following Pelosi’s arrival, House Democrats introudced their own spending bill that included a number of unrelated environmental and corporate diversity regulations for companies receiving the emergency funding. Senate Democrats then blocked the legislation that McConnell and Schumer negotiated on the grounds that it did not provide enough oversight over the $500 million allocated to corporations harmed by the pandemic.

McConnell slammed the slow-walking and called on Democrats “to stop playing politics and step up to the plate,” while Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) said Pelosi was hijacking the negotiations with an “ideologically-driven wish list” of demands “that has absolutely nothing to do with the public health emergency that we face at this moment.”

McConnell later implied that the extended negotiations did not result in significant alterations to the bill, a claim reinforced by Senator Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) who suggested after a deal was reached that Democrats were falsely claiming to have achieved stricter oversight, and that before Pelosi arrived, allegations that the bill’s corporate relief funds lacked oversight were “not a major topic of discussion.”

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