Divided Senate Confirms Trump-Appointed Coronavirus Relief Watchdog

Yuval Rosenberg

The Senate voted along largely partisan Tuesday lines to confirm a White House lawyer nominated by President Trump to oversee the Treasury Department’s use of $500 billion in coronavirus recovery funds.

Senators voted 51-40 to confirm Brian Miller, a White House lawyer since 2018 who previously worked as a federal prosecutor and inspector general for the General Services Administration, as special inspector general for the pandemic recovery fund.

The position, created as part of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed in March, is certain to be highly scrutinized.

Democrats have criticized Miller’s work at the White House and questioned his ability to serve as an independent watchdog. "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," Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown said of Miller. Senator Doug Jones of Alabama was the only Democrat to vote for Miller.

During his confirmation hearing last month, Miller pledged he would not seek Trump’s approval before communicating with Congress and would resist any pressure from the administration to undercut his independence. "If confirmed, I will conduct every audit and investigation with fairness and impartiality," Miller said at his hearing. "I will be vigilant to protect the integrity and independence of the Office of Special Inspector General."

The president, chafing at oversight, has fired several inspectors general in recent months, triggering criticism that the moves were political retaliation.

Miller's office will reportedly have a budget of $25 million.

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