Democrats propose bill to undo Trump move to sideline coronavirus oversight leader
But Trump abruptly replaced Fine on Tuesday with the EPA’s inspector general, a move that effectively demoted Fine to his previous role as principal deputy inspector general for the Pentagon, making him ineligible to lead the coronavirus panel.
But Maloney’s proposal would allow any senior staff of principal deputy IGs to serve on the coronavirus oversight panel, known as the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee.
“We must not allow President Trump to openly flout the oversight measures that Congress put in place,” Maloney, Lynch and Connolly said in a statement. “There are literally trillions of taxpayer dollars at stake, and Americans across the political spectrum want those funds to be spent without waste, fraud, abuse or profiteering.”
It’s unclear whether the inspectors general who initially picked Fine for the job are seeking this change in authority or if the Democrats are proposing it on their own. Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who leads the broader group of inspectors general that selected Fine, has yet to weigh in on Fine’s removal or indicate whether he is expected to name a successor.
Trump’s move to replace Fine at the Pentagon followed the president’s repeated attacks on the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services after a report — based on testimony from hospitals across the nation — about inadequate preparations for the coronavirus crisis. He also late Friday unceremoniously ousted Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community inspector general, a move he later indicated was over his anger at Atkinson for revealing to Congress the existence of a whistleblower report that accused Trump of pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.
The three House Democrats proposing the change to the PRAC panel say they hope to include it in the next emergency legislation Congress considers. House and Senate leaders are already discussing the prospect of a sequel to the $2 trillion law, as well as a near-term emergency bill to send hundreds of billions of dollars to shore up small businesses, hospitals and local governments buckling amid the crisis.