Toomey named to panel that will oversee federal bailout efforts

  • Chris Potter/WESA

Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey has been named to a Congressional panel charged with overseeing a half-trillion-dollar effort to shore up the American economy amid the coronavirus.

Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa. speaks to reporters outside his office on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Tuesday, April 12, 2016.

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP Photo

FILE PHOTO: Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa. speaks to reporters outside his office on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Tuesday, April 12, 2016.

The Republican was named to the five-member Congressional Oversight Commission by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Friday. McConnell called Toomey “one of the sharpest members of the Senate” and “a leader on economics and finance” who sits on the Senate Banking Committee.

“My goal will be to protect the taxpayers by ensuring those resources are used in an appropriate, equitable, and pro-growth manner,” said Toomey in a late-afternoon statement. Toomey is the former head of Club for Growth, which has generally opposed industry bailouts. But Toomey has said the coronavirus represents a different threat, since it represents an external threat no business could be blamed for. (The Club itself has declined to “score” lawmakers for voting in favor of the bill, a step which will help insulate them from political blowback from fiscal conservatives.)

The Commission has jurisdiction over $500 billion that the Treasury Department is empowered to spend on shoring up faltering businesses and industries under the CARES Act, a coronavirus response bill passed in late March. Democrats worried that without oversight, the fund could amount to a ”slush fund” for preferred businesses and industries.

The Commission is similar to a Congressional body created during the Wall Street bailout of 2008: Like that earlier oversight effort, it will have the ability to hold hearings, request information from government agencies, and issue reports. Other members include: French Hill, a House Republican from Arkansas; Bharat Ramamurti, a former aide to Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren; and Donna Shalala, a cabinet member from the Clinton administration and a House member from Florida.

Other oversight provisions in the CARES Act include inspector generals, but in a New York Times op-ed earlier this month, Ramamurti said the commission was “the only body that can investigate … without inference from President Trump.” He said the “key question” it must answer is whether federal support “ends up helping working people or flows instead to the managers, executives, and investors who have … taken so much of the income gains in the past decade.”

But the Commission will not take effect until Congressional leaders select a chairman, and there is not yet a timetable for when that will happen.

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