Tester: Feds must spend $2.2T stimulus properly before Congress takes up new measure

Sen. Jon Tester on Thursday continued his criticism of the Trump administration’s removal of the independent watchdog charged with overseeing the $2 trillion stimulus package passed last month, and he voiced concern over a potential new relief bill.

Tester wasn’t alone Thursday in seeking answers regarding President Donald Trump’s decision to fire the chairman of the accountability committee charged with oversight. He was joined by a coalition of Republicans including Sens. Chuck Grassley, Mitt Romney and Susan Collins, among others.

“This is deeply troubling,” Tester said during a press call Thursday. “Anything less than complete transparency on where this money goes is unacceptable. To me, the firing of that inspector general is an attack on the checks and balances to ensure our government is accountable to the people.”

Hours before Thursday’s call, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell brought a new bill to the floor seeking another $250 billion in funding for small businesses hammered by the COVID-19 outbreak. Other funding measures are also being proposed.

Tester said future measures aimed at the propping up the economy are premature and the priority should be placed on ensuring the original stimulus measure goes to those for which it was intended.

“We need to make sure this $2.2 trillion – which is a boatload of money – is able to get out the door in a way that meets the needs of the country,” Tester said. “I’ll be focused on that moving forward before we focus on the next COVID package.”

Other Democrats in Congress have deemed McConnell’s $250 billion COVID bill as a publicity stunt, one that was designed to fail. As for the other proposals, Tester said he’d rather seen more funding directed toward the Paycheck Protection Program and certain small businesses.

He said the federal government must spend the original $2.2 trillion bill “as Congress intended” before another bill is considered.

“We’re talking about trillions of taxpayer dollars, every cent that’s borrowed,” Tester said. “It’s critical that Congress holds the admin accountable with strict and aggressive oversight.”