Senate kills measure to defund policy 'czars'

The Senate voted 47-51 on Thursday to kill an amendment offered by Sen. David VitterDavid VitterMercury brings on former Sen. Vitter, two others Lobbying World Bottom Line MORE (R-La.) that would have ended the ability of the White House to appoint policy "czars,” and prohibited the use of federal funds for the salaries and expenses of czars already appointed.

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The measure needed 60 votes to pass.

Before the vote, Sen. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerDean: Schumer's endorsement 'kiss of death' for Ellison How the candidates for DNC chair stack up ahead of Saturday's vote DNC candidate Harrison drops out, backs Perez for chairman MORE (D-N.Y.), the Senate’s third-ranking Democrat, decried the amendment from the floor as an attempt to weaken the Democratic presidency and as a “poison pill” for the underlying legislation.

"It is a poison pill designed to handcuff the president's ability to assemble a team of top-flight advisers and aides," Schumer said. 

Vitter was attempting to attach the amendment to a bill that would streamline the presidential appointment process.

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Vitter, who offered the amendment along with Republican Sens. Rand PaulRand PaulConquering Trump returns to conservative summit Rand Paul rejects label of 'Trump's most loyal stooge' GOP healthcare plans push health savings account expansion MORE (Ky.), Dean HellerDean HellerCornyn: Border wall 'makes absolutely no sense' in some areas Greens launch ads against two GOP senators for Pruitt votes GOP groups ramp up pressure on lawmakers over ObamaCare MORE (Nev.) and Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGOP senator grilled over DeVos vote during town hall Big Pharma must address high drug prices ­ObamaCare fix hinges on Medicaid clash in Senate MORE (Iowa), argued that the czars appointed by Obama possess too much power and ought to be under the jurisdiction of the Senate. 

“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,” said Vitter in a press release.  “I’m very concerned about that undefined authority of what are essentially political advisory positions, especially when the decisions they make can have a profound effect on our lives.”