President Donald Trump was roundly criticized for suggesting in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak that Democrats would politicize the epidemic against him, but as usual, he had good reason to say so.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced on Thursday that she has created a new select House committee to examine the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus crisis and the distribution of trillions of dollars in taxpayer relief.
New coronavirus oversight committee
The committee will feature House Majority Whip Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) as its chairman and has been granted the authority to issue subpoenas for documents and testimony from administration officials, The Hill reported.
According to Pelosi, the task of the committee will be “to examine all aspects of the federal response to the coronavirus and ensure the taxpayer’s dollars are being wisely and efficiently spent.”
“The panel will root out waste, fraud and abuse; it will protect against price-gouging, profiteering and political favoritism,” Pelosi told reporters in a conference call. “The fact is, we do need transparency and accountability.”
To be sure, there is a need for oversight on federal spending, and that certainly applies to the multi-trillion dollars worth of expenditures in three legislative relief packages that have been passed to relieve the coronavirus crisis.
That said, there is a decided lack of good faith between House Democrats and President Trump’s administration. It isn’t difficult to imagine this new committee swiftly becoming a partisan thorn in the president’s side as House Democrats search for ways to trip him up.
Such an outcome appears not just plausible but probable, based on Pelosi’s own remarks about the committee guarding against “mischief” in terms of the disbursal of appropriated funds. “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,” Pelosi said.
In yet another indicator that House Democrats will seek to weaponize the coronavirus crisis against President Trump, The Hill noted that Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Bennie Thompson (D-MS) have both called for the establishment of a 9/11 commission-style independent panel that will review the administration’s response to the global pandemic and investigate the nation’s preparedness ahead of the outbreak. Undoubtedly, Schiff — who led the House Democrats’ partisan impeachment of President Trump — would use such a panel to continue his crusade against the president.
While Pelosi denied any partisan motivations behind the new committee, her word is worth very little these days. The actions of her party over the past year are clearly indicative of the direction these “oversight” efforts will go.
Trump warns against more “witch hunts”
In an apparent response to Pelosi’s announcement, Trump warned against indulging in another “witch hunt” on Thursday. “I want to remind everyone here in our nation’s capital, especially in Congress, that this is not the time for politics,” Trump said. “Endless partisan investigations have already done extraordinary damage to our country in recent years. It’s witch hunt, after witch hunt, after witch hunt. It’s not any time for witch hunts, it’s time to get this enemy defeated.
“Conducting these partisan investigations in the middle of a pandemic is a really big waste of vital resources, time, attention, and we want to fight for American lives, not waste time and build up my poll numbers,” he continued. “Because that’s all they’re doing because everyone knows it’s ridiculous.”