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Democrats Float Legislation to Undo Trump's Firing of Stimulus Inspector General

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Democrats Float Legislation to Undo Trump's Firing of Stimulus Inspector General

2020-04-09 10:40:05

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Carolyn Maloney (Image source: Public domain)

House Oversight and Government Reform Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-VA) is proving that she takes her relatively new chairwoman role rather seriously. Donald Trump may think he's found a loophole to pull one over Congress and undo an oversight stipulation they added to the stimulus package, but Maloney's on it, along with two other lawmakers, proposing a bill that will close up that loophole. 

Maloney's chair was previously held by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) until his sudden death last October. He had stood out as a voice of reason throughout the Russia investigation hearings and picked up insults from Trump in the process. Shortly after he passed, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) chose Maloney to be the acting chair, and she was officially elected to the chair on November 20.

The Senate negotiated the legislation for the $2.2 trillion stimulus package that puts checks in most Americans' pockets and also provides money for major corporations and small businesses in the form of loans. Senate Democrats wanted to be sure Trump wasn't able to control the distribution of the funds, so a watchdog group, the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, was created to oversee the stimulus trillions. 

However, Trump complained about the oversight before he signed off on the bill, though he did eventually sign it. Just days later, he fired Glenn Fine, the acting inspector general of the Defense Department who had also been tapped to oversee the PRAC. While he lost his acting inspector general position, he goes back to being the deputy inspector general of the Defense Department. But because he is no longer an inspector general, he can no longer be a part of the PRAC.

Maloney, along with Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA) and Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA), is proposing a bill that would allow others to oversee the stimulus package and not constrain the committee to inspectors general. The proposal would allow any senior staff of principal deputy inspectors general to serve in the position, which would allow Fine to still fulfill the duty 

Fine had been selected by other inspectors general to lead the committee that would oversee the delivery of the funds. He was expected to form a committee of other inspectors general to help him in this endeavor.

"We must not allow President Trump to openly flout the oversight measures that Congress put in place," said the three lawmakers in a statement. "There are literally trillions of taxpayer dollars at stake, and Americans across the political spectrum want those funds to be spent without waste, fraud, abuse, or profiteering." 

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz leads the group of watchdogs who selected Fine to fulfill this position. He has not voiced his opinion yet on Fine's demotion, nor has he indicated whether he will be naming a successor. It's unclear whether Horowitz and the committee sought this change to the law or whether the Democrats put this bill together independently.

Fine is the third inspector general this week to draw negative attention from Trump. He also fired the intelligence community inspector general, Michael Atkinson. He was the one alerted Congress to the whistleblower complaint that led to Trump's impeachment. The president has also attacked the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services because of a report that hospitals were not prepared for the onslaught of the coronavirus. 

Maloney, Lynch, and Connolly said they are hoping to include their bill in the next coronavirus emergency legislation that Congress considers. There are already discussions for the fourth bill.

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