Brian Miller waits ahead of a Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee nomination hearing on May 5.

Brian Miller waits ahead of a Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee nomination hearing on May 5. Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via AP, Pool

Senate Confirms Brian Miller to Be Pandemic Inspector General

The Senate voted 51-40 in favor of putting the White House lawyer and former GSA watchdog in charge of ensuring relief funds are not misspent.

On Tuesday evening, the Senate confirmed White House lawyer Brian Miller to be special inspector general for pandemic recovery.  

The Senate voted 51-40, largely along party lines, to confirm Miller to the new position created by the $2.2 trillion CARES Act to ensure that public funds are not misspent during novel coronavirus relief efforts. Although President Trump objected to the creation of a special IG in a signing statement accompanying the CARES Act on March 27, he tapped Miller for the role on April 3.

Miller has held a number of high-level positions in government since 1992. He served for nearly a decade as inspector general at the General Services Administration, and held senior positions at the Justice Department, including assistant U.S. attorney general, senior counsel to the deputy attorney general, and special counsel on health care fraud. He has been working for the White House since December 2018 and is most recently known for denying the Government Accountability Office’s request for information during its probe of the administration’s handling of Ukraine aid, which led to the impeachment investigation of President Trump.

Lawmakers and experts had mixed reactions to Miller’s confirmation testimony, despite his claims he will provide effective and independent oversight if confirmed. 

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on May 19 he would oppose Miller’s nomination because “he did not convince me that he had the necessary independence to do this job.” During a phone conversation he “refused to provide any sense of his work or responsibilities in the White House counsel’s office and refused even to say whether President Trump was right or wrong to fire a rash of inspectors general in recent weeks,” Schumer said. “Miller’s inability to demonstrate independence from his current employer, and speak out when he sees actions from administration officials that are clearly out of bounds, is deeply troubling given that this president seems to demand blind loyalty from federal inspectors general.”

Republicans took a different view of Miller and his career. 

“Miller is highly qualified for the special inspector general position, having served as the inspector general for the General Services Administration for nearly a decade” in which he “led more than 300 auditors, special agents, attorneys and support staff in conducting nationwide audits and investigations; and reported on fraud, waste and abuse,” said Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, on May 5. “I encourage my colleagues to support Mr. Miller’s nomination, so that he can begin this vital [pandemic] oversight role.” 

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, a longtime advocate for whistleblowers and inspectors general, has yet to issue a statement specific to Miller, but has stressed the need for “stringent oversight” of pandemic relief funds and introduced a bill that would speed up the hiring process for the special IG, so he/she “can hit the ground running.”