Se­nate con­firms pan­demic re­cov­ery watch­dog

Orlando Sentinel - - Business - By Mary Clare Jalonick

WASHINGTON — The Se­nate has con­firmed a new in­spec­tor gen­eral to over­see money dis­trib­uted as part of the $2 tril­lion eco­nomic res­cue law, put­ting at least one watch­dog in place as over­sight of the money has lagged.

The Se­nate con­firmed Brian Miller, a lawyer in the White House coun­sel’s of­fice, on a 51-40 vote Tues­day. Democrats voted against Miller after ques­tion­ing his in­de­pen­dence from Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, who nom­i­nated him for the post.

Re­spond­ing to those con­cerns, Miller told the Se­nate Bank­ing Com­mit­tee dur­ing his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing last month that “in­de­pen­dence is vi­tal” for the spe­cial in­spec­tor gen­eral for pan­demic re­cov­ery. He pledged to con­duct au­dits and in­ves­ti­ga­tions “with fair­ness and im­par­tial­ity.”

The post would place him in charge of over­see­ing a $500 bil­lion Trea­sury fund for busi­nesses and lo­cal­i­ties cre­ated as part of the eco­nomic res­cue law ap­proved in March.

Repub­li­cans pointed to his pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence as an in­de­pen­dent watch­dog. Miller has worked at the Jus­tice Depart­ment and was in­spec­tor gen­eral for nearly a decade at the Gen­eral Ser­vices Ad­min­is­tra­tion, which over­sees thou­sands of fed­eral con­tracts.

Miller helped force out the GSA’s di­rec­tor dur­ing Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, draw­ing crit­i­cism from the White House and Repub­li­can law­mak­ers.

But most Democrats weren’t con­vinced, with only one — Alabama Sen. Doug Jones — vot­ing for him.

As Miller as­sumes the post, he will be one of the sole checks on the mas­sive pot of money as other over­sight bod­ies set up in the law have foundered.

The Pan­demic Re­cov­ery Ac­count­abil­ity Com­mit­tee, a com­mit­tee of in­spec­tors gen­eral, still has no leader after Trump side­lined the orig­i­nal chair­man, Glenn Fine, by de­mot­ing him.

A bi­par­ti­san con­gres­sional com­mis­sion is also rud­der­less as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., have not yet agreed upon and ap­pointed a chair, as the law di­rects them to do.

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