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Oversight panel to miss deadline set by coronavirus aid package

No chairperson, no budget, no staff ... no problem? Four out of five commission members say they are plugging away

Sen. Patrck J. Toomey, R-Pa., was selected by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to serve on what's supposed to be a five-member oversight commission.
Sen. Patrck J. Toomey, R-Pa., was selected by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to serve on what's supposed to be a five-member oversight commission. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Four members of a still-leaderless panel appointed by congressional leaders to oversee $500 billion in federally backed loans to distressed industries said they’d miss their first reporting deadline under the March coronavirus relief package.

The law creating the commission requires monthly reports beginning 30 days after the first use of the Treasury and Federal Reserve loan authorities under the $2 trillion measure.

“Although we will not issue a report today, we are working to fulfill our responsibilities, even in the absence of a staff, a budget, and a chairperson, and intend to publish one soon,” the four panel members said in a joint statement Friday.

Since the Fed announced its new Treasury-backed lending programs April 9, one of the oversight panel’s members, Rep. French Hill, R-Ark., wrote in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette this week that the deadline could be as early as this weekend. However, since there have been no reports yet that any of the new lending facilities have made a loan, it could be argued that a report won’t be due until 30 days after the first loan occurs, Hill said in an interview with CQ Roll Call.

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The Friday joint statement made the same point that although Treasury and the Fed have announced creation of these emergency lending facilities, they have not yet begun lending.

Hill was appointed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Commission members picked by the other “big four” House and Senate leaders include Sen Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s choice; Rep. Donna E. Shalala, D-Fla., selected by Speaker Nancy Pelosi; and Bharat Ramamurti, a former senior aide to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who was selected by Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer.

The commission is charged with submitting monthly reports to Congress about the impact, effectiveness and transparency of loans and loan guarantees backed by Treasury and the Fed authorized by the law.

Those programs include $454 billion to back lending through Federal Reserve credit facilities for hard-hit sectors as well as state and local governments, plus another $29 billion specifically for the airline industry and $17 billion for companies considered “critical to maintaining national security.”

[Pelosi: Oversight commission chief selection coming ‘soon’]

The four members have been on board for more than two weeks as Pelosi and McConnell negotiated over who they’d recommend to lead the five-member panel.

Last week, VICE News reported that former Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation chief Sheila Bair, a Republican who backed Warren for president, was in the running. On Tuesday, Pelosi said she’d made a recommendation to McConnell and was waiting to hear back. On Thursday, she said a decision was expected before the end of the week.

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