News & Politics

Trump Resisting Congressional Oversight of Corporate Bailout Program

YouTube screenshot of President Trump signing a VA reform bill, with Secretary David Shulkin on the right, and Michael Verardo behind him.

The $2 trillion stimulus bill signed into law by the president on Friday was the product of a compromise between congressional Democrats and Senate Republicans. The Democrats want “oversight” of the $500 billion corporate loan provisions in the bill and to that end, they insisted that loans would be reviewed by a congressional committee after an inspector general reported to them.

But when the bill was signed, Trump issued a signing statement that stipulated the IG could not report to Congress without his permission. Naturally, this has Democrats up in arms, but Trump is well within the scope of his presidential powers to do it.

CNBC:

“I do not understand, and my Administration will not treat, this provision as permitting the [the Inspector General] to issue reports to the Congress without the presidential supervision,” he wrote in a signing statement. A signing statement indicates how the president intends to interpret a law.  Trump has a record of seeking to withhold information from Congress, most notably during the recent House Intelligence Committee’s probe of his dealings with Ukraine. He likewise fought efforts by House committees to subpoena his financial records.

No doubt Democrats want to use any report from the inspector general for political purposes not related to “oversight,” which is in the hands of the Treasury secretary anyway.

Democrats don’t see it that way.

“The president’s statement is indicative of the difference between Democrats and Republicans when it came to this bill,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Friday about the language.

“It’s not a surprise to anyone,” she said of Trump’s signing language. “But Congress will exercise its oversight — and we will have our panel appointed by the House to, in real-time, make sure we know where those funds are being expended.”

Democrats will know exactly where those funds are going regardless of any IG, and won’t be able to stop them even if they wanted to. They want to be able to pick apart any loan request as insufficiently “worker-friendly” or find some other political angle to attack Trump and the Republicans.

A Senate Democratic aide said, “We fully anticipated Trump shenanigans, so that’s why there are multiple layers of strict oversight in this bill, including a council of existing inspectors general and GAO review, in addition to the Special IG, reporting requirements and a Congressional Oversight Commission.”

I guess it’s now considered “shenanigans” if a president tries to exercise his discretionary powers. Too bad Democrats didn’t get all lathered up when President Obama issued signing statements that actually altered the intent of Republican-sponsored legislation. If they had, they might have some credibility here.

As it is, they don’t. This is a political power game and Trump is refusing to play.