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The Defense Department’s internal watchdog will serve as newly named chair of The Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, a body created to oversee the roughly $2 trillion stimulus deal that President Donald Trump signed into law last week in response to the economic devastation wrought by the coronavirus outbreak.
Glenn Fine, the acting inspector general of the Department of Defense, was appointed by another committee of IGs assigned by the new law to name a chair.
Fine will oversee a board of fellow inspectors general, all responsible for monitoring their respective departments. They include the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Justice, Labor, as well as the Treasury, the Small Business Administration and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
Fine’s authority will be expansive. He can issue subpoenas and lead investigations of those in and outside the government, including executives accepting federal aid. Fine’s job as committee chair is to help “prevent waste, fraud, and abuse” of the more than $2 trillion the U.S. is spending on recovery.
Prior to joining the Department of Defense, Fine worked for eleven years as inspector general for the Department of Justice under both Democratic and Republican presidents.
The Pandemic Response committee is one of three such bodies written into the law that will provide oversight over the massive stimulus package.
Fine’s appointment comes as the independence of another of the key watchdogs has been put into question.
Trump on Friday indicated he would push back against powers granted to a special inspector general who will help oversee a $500 billion bailout fund run by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. That fund is meant to dole out funds to struggling industries including airlines.
Trump wrote in a signing statement attached to the new law that he believes that inspector general needs his permission before letting Congress know if Mnuchin or Treasury block efforts to glean information.
Trump will appoint that inspector general, who will then be approved by the Republican-led Senate.
Democrats pushed for that IG to ensure transparency over the disbursement of the fund that they once dubbed a slush fund. They have stressed that the inspector general will be only one layer of oversight over the $500 billion. A congressional committee will provide additional oversight.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer applauded Fine’s appointment in a statement Monday.
“The Pandemic Response Accountability Committee is critical to holding President Trump and his administration accountable to the letter and spirit of the law,” he said.
“Glenn Fine has a good reputation as a tough federal prosecutor and former DOJ Inspector General, and must exercise his full oversight authority to ensure that the Trump administration implements the CARES Act as intended,” he said.