By John L. Micek
For the Pittsurgh Current
Pennsylvania Dems are out with a new digital spot hitting U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., over an emerging dispute over how to hold the Federal Reserve Board and the Treasury Department accountable as it doles out billions of dollars in loan money authorized by the CARES Act.
As Politico reports, the “fault lines” in the congressional panel charged with exercising oversight on the lending pit Toomey, a former Wall Streeter, against Bharat Ramamurti, a former staffer for U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., whose hostility to Big Money is well-established.
According to Politico, Ramamurti believes the Fed should restrict stock buybacks and executive bonuses for large corporations that are the beneficiaries of taxpayer largesse. He also believes that midsize firms should face conditions that include limitations on corporate outsourcing, Politico reports.
Not so for Toomey, who was tapped by noted Sith Lord Mitch McConnell, for the oversight panel.
“The Fed’s role is to comply with the statute,” Toomey said, according to Politico. “If Congress had wanted those restrictions to be in place, it would’ve been in the statute.”
As you might expect, Pa. Dems pounced on Toomey’s comments like the guy in “Oliver!” bellowing “Moooorreee??? You wanntttt moorreee!!???”
A 60-second YouTube spot shows the unseen hand of corporate America penning thank you notes to Toomey for the loans authorized by the CARES Act. They include airline, oil and cruise line execs.
“Pat Toomey is letting millionaires get away with using taxpayer funded bailout funds to write themselves big checks,” Beth Melena, a spokesperson for the state party said in an email. “Pat Toomey’s looking out for millionaires and billionaires because he only works for the rich and powerful. When will Pat Toomey start working for us?”
Here’s the part where we get to the nuance.
In an email, Toomey’s spokesman, Steve Kelly, accused Dems of faulty fact-checking, noting that the oversight panel’s purview doesn’t include small businesses, pointing to reporting by The Hill, a publication that covers Congress.
*”Lawmakers established the five-person congressional oversight commission as part of their deal on the massive $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package passed by Congress late last month,” The Hill reported. “The panel is charged with monitoring the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve’s handling of the $500 billion in aid to impacted industries like airlines included in the bill.”
And while he acknowledged that Toomey wanted to offer loans to the airline industry, Kelly pointed to a Washington Post story which shows Democrats wanted to offer grants to the industry.
“It didn’t end up in the place I thought was ideal,” Toomey said, according to the Post, adding that the assistance offered to a variety of industries “will do a tremendous amount of good.”
While it’s far from perfect, the Senate version of the CARES Act did include, as NPR reports, $560 billion in assistance to individuals, including those direct cash payments of as much as $2,900.
Aid to small business in the Senate package was nearly equaled by assistance to large corporations at $500 billion. And as a member of the majority party in the Senate, Toomey was in a position at the time to shift that balance. As we know, that ended up not happening in the bill, which sailed through the majority Democrat House before landing on President Donald Trump’s desk.
John L. Micek is the editor of the Penneylvania Capital-Star where this story first appeared.