Senate kills measure to defund policy 'czars'

The Senate voted 47-51 on Thursday to kill an amendment offered by Sen. David VitterDavid VitterLobbying World Bottom Line Republicans add three to Banking Committee 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 SchumerMcConnell: Senate could vote on 3 Trump nominees Friday CBO: 18 million could lose coverage after ObamaCare repeal Week ahead: Trump's health pick takes the hot seat 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 PaulPaul, Lee call on Trump to work with Congress on foreign policy GOP senators introducing ObamaCare replacement Monday Sanders, Dems defend ObamaCare at Michigan rally MORE (Ky.), Dean HellerDean HellerThe Hill's 12:30 Report Five things to watch in round two of Trump confirmation fights Week ahead: Dems to grill Trump Treasury pick MORE (Nev.) and Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyJeff Sessions will protect life Justice, FBI to be investigated over Clinton probes Pence meets with Kaine, Manchin amid Capitol Hill visit 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.”