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Dunford withdraws as pick to lead coronavirus oversight commission

Retired Gen. Joseph Dunford, former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, has withdrawn from consideration to lead a congressional commission tasked with overseeing the Trump administration’s implementation of a $500 billion coronavirus relief fund, according to multiple Capitol Hill sources.

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The move leaves the five-member commission without a leader four months after President Donald Trump signed into law the $2 trillion CARES Act, which established the commission. The law tasked Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell with agreeing on a chair, and Dunford was the leading candidate and the only name that has emerged so far.

“Ultimately, General Dunford decided his service on the CARES Commission was incompatible with his other commitments,” according to a source familiar with the developments.

The panel’s other four members — Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.), Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.), Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Bharat Ramamurti, a former aide to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) — have been meeting for more than two months and issuing periodic reports despite the absence of a chair.

The commission was a key feature trumpeted by Democrats and Republicans to emphasize that they intended to keep close watch on the administration’s implementation of the massive economic rescue effort. The $500 billion fund is managed by the U.S. Treasury and the Federal Reserve and is intended to shore up businesses, industries and local governments damaged by the impact of the pandemic.

Ramamurti recently went public with his frustrations by the panel’s slow start.

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“Congress created the Congressional Oversight Commission 105 days ago. The Commission is responsible for overseeing $500 billion in public money. As of today, the Commission still has no Chair or full-time staff,” he tweeted last week.

“We are doing the best we can,” he added. “The two reports we have issued… contain a lot of useful information, questions, and analysis. But the lack of Chair and staff are serious obstacles to performing robust oversight.”

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