WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced Thursday that a bipartisan House committee will investigate the federal response to coronavirus pandemic and ensure that congressional funding is spent wisely.
“The committee will be empowered to examine all aspects of the federal response to the coronavirus, and to assure that the taxpayer dollars are being wisely and efficiently spent to save lives, deliver relief and benefit our economy,” Pelosi said during a conference call with reporters.
House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., will chair a newly formed House select committee, Pelosi said. She did not detail how many Republicans and Democrats would serve on the committee.
“The panel will weed out waste, fraud and abuse,” Pelosi said. “It will protect against price gouging, profiteering and political favoritism. It will press to ensure that the federal response is based on the best possible science and guided by the nation’s best health experts.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., voiced opposition to the select committee Thursday on a separate press call.
He said that Congress already wrote oversight provisions into the latest funding package. The GOP leader also said that he doesn’t support Clyburn serving as the chairman.
McCarthy said Clyburn will seek to use the committee as an opportunity to restructure government and the economy.
The committee will have subpoena power, said Pelosi. But she said the committee should not be viewed as an investigation of the Trump administration, adding she hopes Republicans will cooperate.
The panel will oversee the funding Congress has already approved in three separate packages, including the $2 trillion stimulus bill. The committee would also provide oversight of future funding.
Pelosi said she spoke to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin about the next funding package that Congress could consider when lawmakers return to Washington.
Top House Democrats, including Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., have proposed the formation of a 9/11-style commission to investigate the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S.
But Pelosi said while a commission, which would be a retrospective review, is necessary, she wants the select committee to assess the response in real time as the crisis continues to unfold. A commission could be discussed in the future, she said.
Traditionally, select committees focus on one issue. Democrats, for example, formed committees on climate change and the modernization of Congress. When Republicans last controlled Congress, they formed a select committee to investigate the 2012 Benghazi attacks.
In a sign of potential bipartisan cooperation, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who was in the Capitol on Thursday to preside over a Senate pro forma session, said that Congress needs to look into what went wrong with the spread of the coronavirus and how to prepare for a future pandemic.
“Probably the most important thing we need to do is learn the lessons from this pandemic because we, we kind of got sucker-punched,” he said.
Leigh Ann Caldwell and Julie Tsirkin contributed.