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Hill named to new pandemic aid watchdog group

Former Arkansas banker and Treasury official, Hill is also a top Democratic target in November

Rep. French Hill, R-Ark., will be House Republicans' representative on new pandemic oversight board.
Rep. French Hill, R-Ark., will be House Republicans' representative on new pandemic oversight board. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Corrected 7:10 p.m. | Rep. French Hill, a former banker and Treasury Department official, will be House Republicans’ representative on the Congressional Oversight Commission, created to watch over government spending on the COVID-19 pandemic.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy named Hill, an Arkansas Republican, to the commission on Friday. The new watchdog group was created as part of the roughly $2 trillion relief package enacted last month.

Republicans, and some Democrats, on the House Financial Services Committee have deferred to Hill’s knowledge of financial institutions and banking in developing legislation.

Even as a freshman in the 114th Congress, Hill was one of the top House fundraisers from financial services sources and quickly moved into leadership on the committee when he was tapped as the majority’s whip by then-Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, for the 115th Congress.

A former deputy assistant Treasury secretary, Hill had reportedly been considered in early 2017 as a nominee to the Federal Reserve Board by President Donald Trump.

“His personal background as a senior official at the Department of the Treasury and as a private banker provides important expertise that will guide his advocacy of immediate and effective solutions for the American people struggling from the despair during this crisis,” McCarthy, R-Calif., said in a statement Friday. “French will do a terrific job.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sees Hill’s Arkansas 2nd District as winnable and has targeted him in the 2020 campaign. Democrats had been optimistic about flipping the district, which includes Little Rock, in 2018, but Hill still won that race by 6 points. This time, Hill faces state Sen. Joyce Elliott, a former teacher and leader in the state House.

Last week, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., made the first nomination to the five-member commission: Bharat R. Ramamurti, a former senior aide to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

Each of the four congressional leaders — Schumer, McCarthy, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. — get one pick. Pelosi and McConnell in consultation pick the fifth, who serves as chairman.

Pelosi told reporters Thursday that she would announce her choice “pretty soon.” She also said that she and McConnell have agreed to submit names to each other for the fifth nominee.

The commission is one of three major oversight mechanisms created in the huge coronavirus aid package.

Glenn Fine, the Pentagon’s acting inspector general, was initially named to lead a team of inspectors general who will oversee spending approved in the relief bill. But President Donald Trump later abruptly removed Fine from his position, and it wasn’t yet clear who would take his place on the oversight panel.

[Trump throws ‘wrecking ball’ across federal inspectors general]

The new oversight commission is tasked with providing monthly reports to Congress on the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve’s implementation of the law’s provisions on loans and related programs.

Correction: This report was revised to reflect that Glenn Fine is no longer serving on the team of inspectors general overseeing the relief bill.

Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.

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