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COVID-19 Congressional Oversight
Commission (COC)
April 2, 2020
On March 27, 2020, President Donald Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security
Act (CARES Act) into law (P.L. 116-136). Section 4020 of Title IV, Subtitle A, the Coronavirus
Economic Stabilization Act of 2020, established a five-member Congressional Oversight Commission
(COC) as one of several oversight mechanisms. The COC is to “conduct oversight of the implementation
of this subtitle by the Department of the Treasury and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve
System,” report to Congress on the Treasury Secretary’s and the Federal Reserve Board of Governors’
actions, and review the federal government’s implementation of the act.

Congressional Commissions
As constructed, the COC can be considered a congressional advisory commission. A congressional
advisory commission is generally defined as a multimember independent entity that (1) is established by
Congress, (2) exists temporarily, (3) serves in an advisory capacity, (4) is appointed in part or whole by
Members of Congress, and (5) reports to Congress.
This definition differentiates a congressional commission from a presidential commission, an executive
branch commission, or other bodies with “commission” in their names (e.g., the Federal Election
Commission), while including most entities that fulfill the role commonly perceived for congressional
commissions: namely, studying policy issues and reporting findings to Congress.

Is the COC a Congressional Commission?
As enacted, the COC meets the five criteria outlined above, as shown in Table 1.

Congressional Research Service
Prepared for Members and
Committees of Congress

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Table 1. Comparison of Congressional Advisory Commission Criteria and the
Congressional Oversight Commission (COC)

COC Language


“There is hereby established the Congressional Oversight Commission … as an
establishment in the legislative branch.” [§4020(a)]

Exists Temporarily

“The Oversight Commission shall terminate on September 30, 2025.” [§4020(f)]

Serves in an Advisory Capacity

“The Oversight Commission shall … conduct oversight of the implementation of this
subtitle by the Department of the Treasury and the Board of Governors of the Federal
Reserve System, including efforts of the Department and the Board to provide economic
stability as a result of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID–19) pandemic of 2020.”

Appointed by Congress

“The Oversight Commission shall consist of 5 members as follows:
(A) 1 member appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
(B) 1 member appointed by the House of Representatives minority leader.
(C) 1 member appointed by the Senate majority leader.
(D) 1 member appointed by the Senate minority leader.
(E) 1 member appointed as Chairperson by the Speaker of the House and the Senate
majority leader, after consultation with the Senate minority leader and the House
minority leader.” [§4020(c)]

Reports to Congress

“The Oversight Commission shall … submit to Congress reports…” [§4020(b)(1)(B)]

Source: CRS Analysis of P.L. 116-136, §4020.

COC Features
P.L. 116-136, Section 4020 contains several elements for the COC to carry out its tasks, including
specifying duties, pay of commission members, powers to exercise its authority, and funding.

Duties and Reports
The COC is directed to report “not later than 30 days after the first exercise by the Secretary and the
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System of the authority under this subtitle and every 30 days
thereafter.” The reports must include
(i) The use by the Secretary and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System of authority
under this subtitle, including with respect to the use of contracting authority and administration of
the provisions of this subtitle.
(ii) The impact of loans, loan guarantees, and investments made under this subtitle on the financial
well-being of the people of the United States and the United States economy, financial markets, and
financial institutions.
(iii) The extent to which the information made available on transactions under this subtitle has
contributed to market transparency.
(iv) The effectiveness of loans, loan guarantees, and investments made under this subtitle of
minimizing long-term costs to the taxpayers and maximizing the benefits for taxpayers.

Congressional Research Service


Commissioner Compensation
Commission members who are not federal employees are to be paid “at a rate equal to the daily
equivalent of the annual rate of basic pay for level I of the Executive Schedule for each day (including
travel time) during which such member is engaged in the actual performance of duties vested in the
Oversight Commission,” and reimbursed for travel expenses. For FY2020, Level I of the Executive
Schedule is $219,200 annually.

The COC is provided several authorities to allow it to carry out its mission. The COC is authorized to hire
staff, request the detail of federal employees on a reimbursable basis, procure the services of outside
experts and consultants, hold hearings, enter into contracts, and obtain information from any federal
agency or department upon request.

Section 4020(g) authorizes the appropriation of such sums as may be necessary for expenses of the COC,
of which half shall be derived from the contingent fund of the Senate, and half shall be derived from the
“applicable account” of the House of Representatives. The Secretary of the Treasury and the Board of
Governors of the Federal Reserve are directed to reimburse such accounts for commission expenses from
funds made available to the Secretary under this subtitle.

Comparison to TARP Congressional Oversight Panel
The COVID-19 Congressional Oversight Commission is similar in structure to a previous entity
established by Congress: the Troubled Asset Relief Program Congressional Oversight Panel (TARP-COP,
P.L. 110-343, §125). Like the COC, the TARP-COP was a five-member independent entity in the
legislative branch, appointed by congressional leadership, and directed to submit regular reports to
In exercising the duties established in P.L. 110-343, the TARP-COP issued 30 reports and held 26
hearings between December 2008 and March 2011, according to its final report. The COP expended
approximately $10.7 million through April 3, 2011. It also employed a total of 46 staff and utilized three

Author Information
Jacob R. Straus
Specialist on the Congress


William T. Egar
Analyst in American National Government

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This document was prepared by the Congressional Research Service (CRS). CRS serves as nonpartisan shared staff
to congressional committees and Members of Congress. It operates solely at the behest of and under the direction of
Congress. Information in a CRS Report should not be relied upon for purposes other than public understanding of
information that has been provided by CRS to Members of Congress in connection with CRS’s institutional role.
CRS Reports, as a work of the United States Government, are not subject to copyright protection in the United
States. Any CRS Report may be reproduced and distributed in its entirety without permission from CRS. However,
as a CRS Report may include copyrighted images or material from a third party, you may need to obtain the
permission of the copyright holder if you wish to copy or otherwise use copyrighted material.

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