House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Wednesday the Democratic members who will serve on a newly established oversight panel with broad authority to oversee the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Pelosi listed the names of the Democratic lawmakers on the panel in a “dear colleague” letter to House Democrats. In addition to House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, who Pelosi had previously indicated would serve as the chair of the committee, the following Democratic lawmakers will also serve on the panel: Reps. Maxine Waters of California, Carolyn Maloney of New York, Nydia Velázquez of New York, Bill Foster of Illinois, Jamie Raskin of Maryland and Andy Kim of New Jersey.
Pelosi appeared alongside Clyburn at a press event to formally unveil the names of the Democratic members and said the panel would be bipartisan, despite Republican criticism of it as unnecessary and warnings that it could be used for partisan attacks.
“It is with great excitement that we establish this. It’s bipartisan. We’re hoping that the Republican leader will name his members soon. We’ve been in communication. I told him a couple of days ago who I was going to be appointing so he can make his own judgments about the committee, but we want it to be as nonpartisan as possible and very much a part of doing the right thing for the American people,” Pelosi said.
The panel is slated to consist of seven Democrats and five Republicans, according to the text of the resolution establishing it.
“I look forward to Republican leader Kevin McCarthy making his appointments to this committee so that we can go about our business of carrying out our responsibilities in a bipartisan manner,” Clyburn said.
A spokesman for House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy criticized the panel on Wednesday and the line up of Democratic members named by the speaker to serve on it.
“The roster the Speaker has chosen makes clear that this is not an honest effort at transparency and accountability, but rather another attempt to politically damage the Trump administration. During a time of unprecedented crisis, Congress must come together to speak with one voice - the Speaker’s so-called coronavirus oversight task force is simply another partisan pursuit,” Mark Bednar, a spokesman for the GOP leader, said in a statement to CNN.
Bednar said, “Instead of looking for innovative ways to help the American people, Speaker Pelosi has chosen to pursue ‘impeachment 2.0’ with a partisan and unnecessary oversight committee. Currently the House has a standalone Oversight Committee, oversight authority in each committee, and three new oversight bodies established in the CARES Act,” a reference to the more than $2 trillion stimulus package passed by lawmakers last month.
The roster includes Democratic lawmakers who already serve in powerful positions of oversight.
Waters chairs the House Financial Services Committee, Maloney chairs the House Oversight and Reform Committee and Velázquez chairs the House Small Business Committee.
Foster is the chair of a subcommittee on investigations and oversight on the Science, Space, and Technology Committee. Raskin is the chair of a subcommittee on civil rights and civil liberties on the House Oversight Committee. And Kim is the chair of a subcommittee on economic growth, tax, and capital access on the Small Business Committee.
The panel, which will be structured as a select investigative subcommittee of the Oversight Committee, will have far-reaching power to investigate how the trillions of dollars already approved by Congress for coronavirus relief are being used. It will be able to issue subpoenas, review US preparedness for the crisis and examine decisions about the crisis within the administration.
It was formally set up by a House vote last week, which broke along party lines with Democrats supporting it and Republicans opposing.
The panel will probe the “efficiency, effectiveness, equity and transparency” of taxpayer funds used to respond to the crisis and will investigate reports of waste, fraud and abuse of funds being spent, according to the establishing resolution.
It will also be able to study the economic impact and disparate impacts of the crisis on different communities.
Pelosi was asked on Wednesday if an after-action review would be in the panel’s purview and she indicated that is not a current focus.
“After-action review is after action. We’re still in the action. This is about the here and now and as we go forward,” she said. “We’re in the battle right now.”
“I would hope this will anticipate and perhaps stave off any waste, fraud or abuse,” she added. “This is about transparency and accountability.”
This story has been updated with additional developments Wednesday.