Senate confirms new coronavirus-relief watchdog over Democrats’ opposition

The Republican-led U.S. Senate voted on Tuesday to confirm President Donald Trump’s pick to serve as a new special inspector general tasked with overseeing the disbursement of hundreds of billions of coronavirus-relief dollars, according to Politico.

Of course, the vote came down almost entirely along partisan lines — and Democrats expressed misgivings about appointee Brian Miller’s ability to remain neutral.

As Politico explained, the skepticism stemmed from Miller’s prior tenure as a member of the White House counsel’s office.

“Fairness and impartiality”

The final vote was 51–40, and only Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) broke with his party to vote alongside the GOP. Miller appears qualified for the position, having spent 10 years as the General Services Administration’s inspector general, where he was tasked with investigating and rooting out fraud.

During confirmation hearings that took place last month, he addressed those concerned about his ability to remain unbiased and apolitical in the newly formed watchdog position.

“If confirmed, I will conduct every audit and investigation with fairness and impartiality,” he said, according to Politico. “I will be vigilant to protect the integrity and independence of the Office of Special Inspector General.”

Nevertheless, The Washington Times reported that many Democrats focused on his participation in Trump’s defense during the House impeachment trial that concluded with a Senate acquittal earlier this year. Miller did not directly address this concern.

“Mr. Miller refused to provide any sense of his work or responsibility in the White House counsel’s office and refused to even say whether President Trump was right or wrong to fire a rash of inspectors general in recent weeks,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a statement following the hearings, as the Times reported.

“Inability to demonstrate independence”

Schumer went on to describe the appointee’s “inability to demonstrate independence from his current employer, and speak out when he sees officials that are clearly out of bounds” as a “deeply troubling” sign.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) expressed similar concerns, as CBS News reported.

“As an IG nominee with personal ties to the White House Counsel’s Office and an administration outwardly hostile to anyone who tries to hold the president accountable, Mr. Miller failed in committee to explain, or in the letters afterwards, how he will establish his independence from his current boss,” Brown said.

This is hardly the first time Trump’s political opponents have challenged his pick for an influential position. Like in almost all of those previous cases, though, the president seems to have ended up with his preferred candidate being approved for the job.

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