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Nancy Pelosi announces select committee to oversee US coronavirus relief

“We want to make sure there are not exploiters out there… Where there is money, there is often frequently mischief,” Pelosi told reporters.

Pelosi said the panel would have subpoena power, meaning it could demand testimony and documents from the Trump administration. That raised the prospect of a new round of constitutional showdowns between Trump and the Democrat-led House.

US President Donald Trump didn't want a select commitee.

US President Donald Trump didn’t want a select commitee.Credit:AP

Trump criticised Democrats for “conducting these partisan investigations in the middle of a pandemic”.

Pelosi said lawmakers must ensure aid already approved gets to those who need it most, and a committee was needed to ensure fund “are spent wisely and effectively.”

The top House Republican, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, raised several objections to the idea of a select committee, including that it could not be created without a vote and Congress is out until April 20. “It raises questions to me, what the Speaker is trying to do with that,” McCarthy told reporters on a conference call.

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McCarthy said there was already oversight from congressional committees and the new coronavirus laws.

Pelosi, whose party has enough votes in the House to create a select committee if it wants, said she also favoured an “after action review” later to examine the handling of the pandemic, but the select committee would be for the “here and now.”

Pelosi said she spoke with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin about tax matters, but “they know that I want to go forward” on infrastructure spending.

“Whatever communication we need to move forward, that will be happening, whether I talk to the President or not,” said Pelosi, who has a strained relationship with Trump.

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McCarthy said he was open to more infrastructure spending, but wanted to focus on implementing coronavirus-related legislation already passed before embarking on more.

Democrats have outlined a $US760 billion ($1.2 trillion), five-year infrastructure bill that would fund road repairs, water system improvements, broadband and other projects. They also want $US10 billion for community health centres.

Other countries have already established or are in the process of establishing oversight mechanisms for their government’s coronavirus response and spending programs. New Zealand’s parliamentary select committee into the pandemic began meeting this week while Parliament is closed. During its first session, and epidemiologist cast shade on the total number of cases in the community, prompting the government to promise more tests.

Reuters, The New York Times

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