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Obama’s Czars Get Senate Vote of Approval

A Republican-led effort to defund presidential czars failed Thursday when an amendment to a nominations bill fell short of the 60 votes it needed to prevail.

The amendment, proposed by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), failed by a 47-51 vote before the Senators moved on to consider other amendments.

Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.) voted with all Republicans to restrict the naming of czars, while the rest of the Democratic Conference voted to continue to allow the president to use them.

President Barack Obama’s use of czars, which shape White House policy on everything from executive pay to green jobs, have drawn the ire of Republicans, who see it as a power-grab from the executive branch to install into high-level positions ideologically liberal individuals who would likely not survive the confirmations process for Cabinet-level roles that require the Senate’s consent.

“These czars are provided with a considerable amount of power and influence, putting them on the same level as Cabinet members who are thoroughly vetted and approved by the U.S. Senate, but without the public scrutiny,” Vitter said in a statement.

Vitter’s proposal would have halted the appointment of presidential czars and prohibited the funding of their salaries. Along with Vitter, the measure was co-sponsored by Republican Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.), Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and Dean Heller (Nev.). A similar bill introduced by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) passed the House in February as part of a larger spending package.

Vitter’s amendment was offered to the Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act, a bipartisan effort of Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) to reduce by 250 the number of executive branch appointments subject to Senate confirmation. It will be considered in tandem with a change to the Senate rules that would allow the automatic confirmation of certain nominees once they are placed on the Executive Calendar and remain there for 10 days without objection.

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