Pelosi seeks bipartisan panel to oversee $2 trillion coronavirus relief

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday she will form a bipartisan select committee on the coronavirus crisis to oversee the spending of $2 trillion that Congress has approved to respond to the pandemic.

In a conference call with reporters, Democrat Pelosi also said she believed the administration of Republican President Donald Trump was “more inclined to be supportive” than Senate Republican leaders of her push for infrastructure spending as part of a fourth major bill in response to the coronavirus crisis.

Nonetheless she hoped to work on the fourth measure together with Republicans, despite skepticism expressed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“We’ll have our bill…I would hope that we could do it together,” Pelosi said.

Pelosi said she spoke with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Wednesday evening about tax matters, but “they know that I want to go forward” on infrastructure spending.

“Whatever communication we need to move forward, that will be happening, whether I talk to the president or not,” said Pelosi, who has a strained relationship with Trump.

Democrats have outlined a roughly $760 billion, five-year infrastructure bill that would fund road repairs, water system improvements, broadband and other projects. They also want $10 billion for community health centers.

Pelosi said lawmakers have to make sure the aid that has been approved already gets to working families who need it most, and a committee was needed to ensure that the funds allocated to the response to the virus “are spent wisely and effectively.” She stressed there must be transparency and accountability in the process.

She did not expect any resistance from Republicans to the idea.

But House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy said that a select committee could not be created without a vote and he does not know when that would be. Congress is out until April 20. “It raises questions to me, what the Speaker is trying to do with that,” McCarthy said.

Pelosi said she also favored an “after action review” later to examine the handling of the pandemic, but the select committee will be for the “here and now” to guard against waste, fraud and abuse. It will have subpoena power, she said. “We want to make sure there are not exploiters out there…Where there is money there is also frequently mischief.”

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