The lack of oversight for the multiple coronavirus relief packages has emerged as a roadblock to passing more legislation — as lawmakers prepare to return to Capitol Hill to debate another potential bill.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) outlined the details he wanted to see included in a new package earlier this month, pledging to release a new coronavirus bill to restart talks with Democrats when the Senate returns from recess.
The Kentucky Republican said at the time that he couldn’t say for sure whether Congress would be able to pass another relief package, arguing that “the atmosphere is becoming a bit more political than it was in March.
“But I think we will do something again. I think the country needs one last boost,” he added.
Despite his desire to move on new legislation, other lawmakers have urged caution due to the major gaps in oversight.
Three oversight branches were set up as a result of the CARES Act, the signature piece of coronavirus legislation signed into law in late March.
The special inspector general for pandemic recovery (SIGPR) was tasked with overseeing coronavirus spending, the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee was designed to promote cooperation among the inspectors general and a third oversight body called the Congressional Oversight Commission.
All three bodies have faced considerable hurdles since launching four months ago that have made it harder for all to operate as needed, according to The Hill.
The SIGPR has had issues with staffing their unit, as the inspector general doesn’t have the authority to expedite the lengthy government hiring process.
The Pandemic Response Accountability Committee has still not received data that should have been provided when the CARES Act was passed.
The situation escalated when President Trump blocked Glenn Fine, then-acting inspector general for the Defense Department, from serving as chairman for the committee.
The Congressional Oversight Commission still doesn’t have a leader, though the panel’s four other members have been meeting for over two months.
The four members include Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.), Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.), Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Bharat Ramamurti, a former aide to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and McConnell were eyeing former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford to chair the commission, according to Politico, but he withdrew himself from consideration on Tuesday.
“Ultimately, General Dunford decided his service on the CARES Commission was incompatible with his other commitments,” a source familiar with the developments told the outlet.
Lawmakers will have a mere three weeks to address these problems and negotiate another potential relief package before they recess again for Labor Day.