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Chairman Yarmuth Seeks White House Commitment that CARES Act Will Be Lawfully Implemented and Deliver Promised Relief to the American People

Apr 7, 2020

*Updated: The response from OMB can be found here

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth (KY-03) called on the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to detail how it plans to faithfully implement the bipartisan CARES Act. This includes complying with the oversight and accountability measures included in the bill, allocating funding and resources in accordance with the law and based on science and facts, and keeping Congress fully informed so it can carry out its constitutional responsibilities to oversee spending.

In a letter to Acting OMB Director Russell Vought, Chairman Yarmuth recalled Mr. Vought’s previous appearance before the House Budget Committee where he “assured the committee that, under [his] leadership, OMB will be transparent regarding how it manages the people’s money.”

Chairman Yarmuth stressed the “unparalleled importance” of the critical assistance included in the CARES Act, and how “[i]mplementing these bipartisan, whole-of-government initiatives as Congress intended is critical to ensuring that our government delivers the targeted and effective relief this crisis demands.” Representing $2.2 trillion in new aid, the CARES Act is the single largest relief package ever passed by the United States government. Chairman Yarmuth underscored that “Congress must fulfill our constitutional responsibility to oversee spending and ensure accountability as well, and we intend to do so.”

To that end, the Chairman asked Mr. Vought to respond in writing by April 30, 2020 detailing how OMB plans to faithfully execute its responsibility to administer the vital aid included in the CARES Act – and any bills to come – “in accordance with Congressional statutes and in a transparent way that allows Congress to uphold its constitutional responsibilities.” Congress maintains the power of the purse and is obligated to oversee the spending of Americans’ tax dollars. Chairman Yarmuth is committed to protecting and meeting those responsibilities.

The full text of the letter is below, and a PDF version can be found here.

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Dear Mr. Vought:

As you know, our nation is facing one of the gravest health and economic emergencies in more than 100 years. The coronavirus pandemic has seriously impacted every aspect of American life. Since the beginning of the epidemic, Congress has worked in a bipartisan way to ensure our nation’s response prioritizes the health and needs of the American people. To that end, Congress has passed, and the President has signed into law, three pieces of legislation that, together, dramatically expand, strengthen, and protect critical tools and relief operations for our families and our communities.

The most recent bill, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, is the single largest relief package ever passed by the United States government, representing $2.2 trillion in new aid. I cannot stress enough the unparalleled importance of this assistance: strengthened Unemployment Insurance; direct payments to support Americans and their families; fast relief for small businesses through bolstered SBA emergency grants and loans; and critical investments in our hospitals, health systems, and state and local governments to ensure they have what they need to combat the virus and save lives. Implementing these bipartisan, whole-of-government initiatives as Congress intended is critical to ensuring that our government delivers the targeted and effective relief this crisis demands. But that is not solely a responsibility of the administration. Congress must fulfill our constitutional responsibility to oversee spending and ensure accountability as well, and we intend to do so.

During the House Budget Committee’s hearing on February 12, 2020 regarding the President’s budget request, you acknowledged that OMB may not substitute its judgment for the judgment of the Congress and must operate within the statutes that Congress provides. As Acting Director, you assured the committee that, under your leadership, OMB will be transparent regarding how it manages the people’s money. I accepted your answer and your representation, and I promised to hold you to it. Now, when so much depends on the effectiveness of the federal government, it is critical that you uphold your commitment to maintaining the rule of law, respecting Congress’ proper role, and promoting transparency between the branches.

The American people are counting on the relief Congress appropriated in the CARES Act, and it is vital that the aid included in this bill – and any bills to come – is provided in accordance with Congressional statutes and in a transparent way that allows Congress to uphold its constitutional responsibilities.

I, therefore ask that you respond to the House Budget Committee in writing by April 30, 2020 detailing how OMB plans to:

  • carry out its responsibilities in a manner that ensures that the executive branch’s judgment is not substituted for the judgment of the Congress;
  • ensure the executive branch faithfully implements the CARES Act, and other enacted coronavirus-related measures, and allocates funding and resources in accordance with the law and as needed based on science and facts;
  • keep Congress fully informed of the status of spending on an ongoing basis and ensure that Congress receives the information and materials it requests; and
  • comply with the oversight and accountability measures included in the bipartisan CARES Act.

I look forward to your responses and thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,

John A. Yarmuth

Chairman