This was a vote on an amendment by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) that would have banned presidents from appointing White House “czars,” or high-ranking policy officials with interagency authority who were not subject to congressional oversight. This amendment was offered to legislation reducing the number of federal presidential appointments that were required to be approved by the U.S. Senate.
Vitter urged support for his amendment: “…We have a bill before us about the Senate advice and consent process--the Senate confirmation process--and I think it would be a tragedy to consider any bill on that subject and not, in fact, address the biggest issue, the biggest problem with that process that exists now--certainly also in the eyes of the American people--and that is the abuse by the Executive, over several administrations but culminating in this administration, of appointing so-called czars as an end run around the U.S. Constitution, as an end run around the powers of the Senate and the balance of power of advice and consent and confirmation. My amendment would fix that. It would defund czars and their offices….and it would say we are not going to allow these czars to operate when they are essentially taking the place and the function of what should be a Senate-confirmed position….We shouldn't allow any Executive, any administration, to end-run the U.S. Constitution, to end-run the Senate's important and appropriate role of confirmation, or advice and consent.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) opposed Vitter’s amendment: “It [Vitter’s amendment] is a poison pill designed to handcuff the president's ability to assemble a team of topflight advisers and aides. The amendment is nothing new. It has been introduced several times in several iterations. Now is the time to move forward. It is one of those moments when we can bridge the partisan divide and make the Senate a more efficient body. It is not the time or place to relitigate old and, frankly, silly political battles about so-called czars. It is our constitutionally mandated duty as Senators to ensure that the most important positions in government are confirmed in a timely manner. With the underlying bill, we finally begin to break the logjam that holds up senior positions by taking midlevel, nonpolicy positions off the docket.”
The Senate rejected Vitter’s amendment by a vote of 47-51. All 45 Republicans present and 2 Democrats voted “yea.” 51 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the Senate rejected an amendment that would have banned presidents from appointing White House “czars,” or high-ranking policy officials with interagency authority who were not subject to congressional oversight.