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Senate confirms Miller to be pandemic inspector general

Miller comes from White House counsel's office

Democratic senators were skeptical that Miller, shown here at his confirmation hearing, would be independent of the White House. Miller comes from the White House counsel's office.
Democratic senators were skeptical that Miller, shown here at his confirmation hearing, would be independent of the White House. Miller comes from the White House counsel's office. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post, Pool)

Corrected, 8:46 p.m. | The Senate confirmed President Donald Trump’s controversial pick to oversee a $500 billion coronavirus economic bailout fund on Tuesday.

The chamber voted 51-40 to make Brian Miller the special inspector general for pandemic recovery.

Along with a budget of $25 million and a staff of more than 100, Miller will oversee how the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve deploy $454 billion to create upwards of $4 trillion in lending facilities aimed at keeping financial markets operational and offering larger businesses enough bridge lending to make it through the sharp recession caused by COVID-19.

The inspector general will also track another $46 billion provided to the airline industry and companies considered “critical to maintaining national security.”

Miller, a former inspector general at the General Services Administration, will assume his new position after defending Trump during his impeachment as a member of the White House counsel’s office. At his confirmation hearing, Democrats sharply questioned his ability to remain independent from the White House and hold the administration accountable.

“Mr. Miller, your time working as one of the president’s defense attorneys should have disqualified you from being nominated to oversee the president’s management of one of the largest corporate bailouts in American history,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. 

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During the hearing, Miller pledged to report any political pressure to drop audits or investigations to Congress. When Trump signed a March relief package into law, he issued a signing statement calling a provision requiring the special inspector general to inform Congress if the administration withheld any information unconstitutional.

The special inspector general for pandemic recovery is just one of a handful of new accountability bodies established by Congress to oversee the roughly $3.5 trillion in money it has thrown at stopping COVID-19 and the economic carnage it is inflicting.  

More than 100,000 Americans have died and 40 million have lost their jobs since the pandemic started.

The Congressional Oversight Committee will also focus on the $500 billion bailout fund, while a collection of agency inspectors general, the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, will meet regularly to oversee all the federal government’s pandemic-related actions.

The House also created a Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis to hold hearings.

Miller’s pick came amid a post-impeachment culling of IGs by Trump, who has removed five senior officials since February, including the IG originally tapped to head the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee.

Correction: This report was revised to accurately state the amount of money provided to the airline industry and companies considered “critical to maintaining national security” that will be tracked by the inspector general.

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