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Romney calls on Trump to ensure coronavirus relief funds are spent wisely

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, speaks with KSL’s Doug Wright during an interview in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020, the day after he voted to convict President Donald Trump on one impeachment count.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, is interviewed in Salt Lake City on Feb. 6, 2020.
Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah GOP Sen. Mitt Romney and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., called on the Trump administration to responsibly and efficiently use taxpayer dollars Congress approved to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With trillions of taxpayer dollars being spent, it is critically important for the administration to ensure full transparency and willingness for independent oversight,” they wrote in a letter to President Donald Trump on Friday.

The senators urged the president to ensure the independence of the special inspector general for pandemic recovery, a position they worked into the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act and to provide Congress with details about its plans for rigorous oversight.

Trump sparked controversy last week when he signaled in a signing statement attached to the $2.2 trillion law that his White House would supervise reports to Congress from the special inspector general for coronavirus relief, known as the SIGPR, according to The Hill.

Citing Article II of the Constitution, Trump wrote: “I do not understand, and my Administration will not treat, this provision as permitting the SIGPR to issue reports to the Congress without the presidential supervision required by the Take Care Clause.”

“We expect that the Special Inspector General will fulfill its statutory responsibilities, and look forward to working with your administration to ensure robust oversight of taxpayer dollars,” the senators wrote.

Romney and Tester also want the administration to immediately fill Cabinet-level inspector general vacancies that are critical to ensuring taxpayer dollars are spent wisely. Inspectors general are key positions in federal agencies that will implement COVID-19 relief efforts, including the Department of Health and Human Services, the Treasury Department and the Department of Education.

”Inspectors general play a vital watchdog role, and their permanence would give Congress, and the wider public, more trust that these dollars are being spent in the most effective way possible to best blunt the economic impact from COVID-19,” the senators wrote.

On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the formation of a special bipartisan House committee to oversee the Trump administration’s distribution of coronavirus relief funds over the next few months. The committee would hold Trump accountable for his implementation relief funds as well as to ensure that recipients use the money the way Congress intended.