/  Ranking Member Cole Opening Remarks During H. Res. 935 Hearing

Ranking Member Cole Opening Remarks During H. Res. 935 Hearing

As prepared for delivery during today's hearing:

Today’s hearing is on Speaker Pelosi’s proposed select committee on the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this month, Speaker Pelosi announced that she would create such a select committee, conveniently ignoring that any such select committee has to be established through the Rules Committee.

Today, the Rules Committee is being asked to essentially retroactively rubber-stamp her action. This is particularly egregious considering that up until an hour ago, we had absolutely no details. The Speaker gave our side no notice of her plans, no indication of her rationale or vision and has frankly been radio silent since her announcement, except for the occasional media mention. This is not the way to operate on something that she purports to want to do in a bipartisan fashion.

I will also say, Mr. Chairman, that I am not sure what the goal of such a committee will be. The Speaker claims that the select committee will examine all aspects of the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic and will provide oversight for federal dollars being spent on the response. But Congress already has significant oversight tools at our disposal. The CARES Act established a five-member Congressional Oversight Commission specifically for this purpose, and I note that my good friend from Florida, Representative Shalala, is the House majority’s designee for one of the five seats on that commission.

This commission is in addition to Congress’ other oversight tools, which include the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and the oversight subcommittees that exist on most other permanent House committees. If we already have a separate oversight commission specifically for the CARES Act, and we already have a separate Oversight and Reform Committee, and we already have separate Oversight subcommittees… what, then, is the actual purpose of this proposed select committee?

My fear, Mr. Chairman, is that this new select committee will simply turn into another partisan witch hunt into the Trump Administration. I hope I’m wrong.

Either way, I can think of better uses of our time and resources, Mr. Chairman, given how much oversight already exists over funds appropriated in the CARES Act.

There may be a time in the future when it makes sense to establish a commission – like the 9/11 Commission – to review the COVID-19 pandemic and the government response. But such a commission needs to be bipartisan and devoted to what happened, when it happened and what we can learn from it to improve government responses for the future. This partisan select committee doesn’t meet that test.

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Created: April 22, 2020