The U.S. has spent more than half of $3 trillion in economic rescue funds passed by Congress -- with little of the oversight intended to ensure the money goes to the right places.

Three new oversight bodies are barely functional: A special inspector general was only recently sworn in, a congressional panel still lacks a chairman and staff, and President Donald Trump quickly removed the official who was going to lead a separate accountability committee.

At the same time, about $2 trillion in stimulus money has already been distributed, according to an estimate from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan group focused on fiscal policy.

The sheer size of the pandemic response means there’s a wide swath of issues to investigate. But mistrust in Washington is so deep that the oversight groups’ investigations are already mired in politics. Leaders of both parties have failed to agree on a chairman to lead the congressional oversight panel. And Democrats are already voicing concerns on whether Trump’s hand-picked special inspector general for the stimulus can be independent from his former boss.

While the U.S. Chamber of Commerce frets that lawmakers’ oversight will be tainted by politics, Democrats such as Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, an advocate of the watchdogs’ role, say the cash is already flowing to undeserving recipients.

“We’ve seen giant public companies scoop up relief meant for small businesses, an inspector general fired, promises made to muzzle independent oversight,” Warren said in a statement.

The legislation passed by Congress is worth about $3 trillion over a decade, though some of the cost would be recouped in later years so the amount of money going into the economy now will be closer to $4 trillion, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

One of the key oversight figures is Brian Miller, the former White House lawyer chosen by Trump and sworn in June 5 as special inspector general for pandemic recovery. Democrats are deeply skeptical about how he’ll perform.

Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the top Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, said Miller had been “evasive” and “unwilling to condemn” Trump for removing several agency inspectors general when he testified in front of the Senate panel. Brown and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sent Miller a letter on Tuesday saying they were concerned he couldn’t be independent from Trump.

Miller must convince Democrats and the Trump administration that he’s tough, fair, and someone they should pay attention to, said Neil Barofsky, the first special inspector general who oversaw the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, amid the 2008 financial crisis. He said Miller’s most important chance to prove his independence will be his first public report, due in August.

First « 1 2 3 » Next