Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday that he would nominate a longtime aide to Sen. Elizabeth Warren to serve as his representative on the five-member board overseeing a $500 billion bailout fund intended to help businesses hammered by the coronavirus pandemic.
The fund is part of the $2 trillion relief bill President Donald Trump signed late last month.
Bharat Ramamurti, the Warren aide, will be accompanied by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, although the other leaders are expected to choose proxies, as well. McConnell and Pelosi will pick the committee's chair, in consultation with McCarthy and Schumer.
The committee is one of three oversight prongs established to monitor government spending on coronavirus relief. The $500 billion fund will also be overseen by an inspector general who will be selected by Trump and approved by the Republican-led Senate. A board of inspectors general, meantime, will oversee the entirety of the more than $2 trillion deployed. That board will be led by the Defense Department's Glenn Fine.
Ramamurti served as senior counsel to Warren from 2013 through 2019 and was her deputy policy director for economic policy during her presidential run. Warren has a reputation for being tough on big business and pushed for any federal relief to come with significant strings attached. She was a key figure in the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act that tightened bank oversight in the wake of the financial crisis.
Ramamurti's work with Warren includes helping the senator with her staunch criticism of Wells Fargo in the wake of its sales practices scandal and her push for a criminal investigation into the company. He has a "great nose for figuring out wrongdoing," said Schumer on a press call Monday.
Schumer also said on the call that he believes the country needs a "big and bold" fourth stimulus package, which he spoke to Pelosi about Sunday evening.
He also spoke Sunday night to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, to whom he offered up three recommendations to fill the a prospective czar role to implement the Defense Production Act: Former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul Selva, retired Navy Adm. Sandy Winnefeld and Vice Admiral Mark Harnitchek.
The Defense Production Act gives the government the authority to coordinate the national production of essential gear, such as ventilators and masks. Governors and hospitals have urged Trump to use the act to mitigate the shortages throughout the country.
But Trump, who has said he already invoked it, has only used the power on a selective basis on companies like General Motors and General Electric, many of whom were already ramping up production.
Schumer on Monday called on Trump to enact the act through a full, nationally coordinated response, rather than the ad hoc means he said Trump had been employing.
A spokesperson for the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.