Senate confirms pandemic recovery watchdog
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.