The House voted Thursday to dethrone nine White House “czars.”
Republicans successfully added an amendment to the continuing resolution that would leave President Barack Obama’s senior advisers on policy issues including health care, energy and others out of a job.
The vote was 249-179.
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) offered the amendment that blocks funding for various policy advisers to combat what he called “a very disturbing proliferation of czars” under Obama.
“These unappointed, unaccountable people who are literally running a shadow government, heading up these little fiefdoms that nobody can really seem to identify where they are or what they’re doing,” Scalise said Thursday. “But we do know that they’re wielding vast amounts of power.”
The jobs on the chopping block: White House-appointed advisers on health care, energy and climate, green jobs, urban affairs, the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention center, oversight of TARP executive compensation, diversity at the Federal Communications Commission and the auto industry manufacturing policy.
These so-called “czars” have been favorite targets of Republicans and conservative talk radio hosts, especially energy and climate adviser Carol Browner, who is leaving the administration.
“This is a person who’s continued to do things behind closed doors,” Scalise said of Browner.
GOP lawmakers assailed Browner’s office after a recent report showed that the White House rewrote crucial sections of an Interior Department report to suggest an independent group of scientists and engineers supported a six-month ban on offshore oil drilling.
“It was found out that it was the climate czar that actually doctored the president’s own scientific study to try to say that scientists that the president appointed recommended a moratorium on drilling,” Scalise said. “It turned out the scientists didn’t say that at all.”
A federal investigation found no wrongdoing by Browner.
But Scalise had harsh words to go around for the other “czars,” too. “There’s actually a czar out there trying to still impose a cap-and-trade regime,” he said of the special envoy for climate change, Todd Stern, who works at the State Department.
The amendment would defund the White House “green jobs czar” slot that has been vacant since Van Jones resigned in 2009 after reports surfaced that he signed a petition seeking an investigation into whether the U.S. government was behind the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“The last green jobs czar we had left in disgrace because he expressed comments embracing communism and actually tried to blame the government, the American government, for September 11th attacks,” Scalise said.
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) welcomed Republicans’ use of what he called “gender neutral” language to describe the administration’s appointees.
“A large number of the czars would have been called czarinas in the old days,” Frank said. “So I appreciate the fact that we’ve gotten past sex stereotyping of people.”
And Frank blasted his colleagues for trying to fire Kenneth Feinberg, who was appointed to oversee payments and compensation plans for recipients of federal cash under the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
“This amendment would say to AIG and General Motors, and Chrysler and Ally – the financial company – no one will now be supervising what you do, and even though you haven’t yet paid back the federal government, there will be no enforcement of restrictions on your bonuses, no enforcement of restrictions on your compensation,” he said.
Scalise got 13 Democrats to vote for his amendment and it wasn’t just the usual Blue Dogs: Dan Boren (Okla.), Ben Chandler (Ky.), Jerry Costello (Ill.), Henry Cuellar and Gene Green of Texas, Peter DeFazio (Ore.), Jim Matheson (Utah), Ed Pastor (Ariz.), Nick Rahall (W.Va.), Mike Ross (Ark.), and North Carolina’s Heath Shuler, Mike McIntyre and Larry Kissell.
One Republican – Wisconsin’s Reid Ribble – voted no.