In effort to get rid of Obama’s ‘czars,’ House votes to defund climate czar
In a 249-179 vote, the House of Representatives last week passed an amendment to its budget plan that targets policy czars in the Obama administration (full text here). Specifically, it would remove funding for the Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change and Director of the Office of Health Care Reform positions. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), author of the amendment, framed it as a piece of accountability and spending legislation in a comment to congressional newspaper The Hill:
“We are going to save millions of taxpayer dollars, but we are also going to send him a signal that he is going to have to hold his administration accountable to the same transparency that he promised, but has unfortunately failed to deliver.”
The term “czar,” though used commonly in the media and informally throughout the government, has no official meaning, and the list of officials considered “czars” is inevitably shaggy, since the term is largely a media creation. The amendment follows up on Scalise’s colorfully-named “Sunset All Czars Act,” which has been sitting in the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform committee since early January. That proposed bill seeks first to define the term: “a head of any task force, council, policy office within the Executive Office of the President” appointed on a permanent basis without the approval of the Senate. The bill then denies funding for any such position.
Scalise ultimately seeks to eliminate all executive positions not vetted by the Senate, but it is perhaps unsurprising that he first went after the so-called “climate czar” position. When the current holder of the position, Carol Browner, announced her resignation last month, Rep. Scalise issued this statement in a press release:
“Carol Browner is a poster child for the radical czars who have dominated this administration, serving as a shadow cabinet to implement their liberal agenda…This radical agenda was most evident when her office manipulated the scientific data regarding the BP oil spill which led to the job-killing moratorium on safe drilling in the Gulf. Her resignation should also represent an admission by this administration that it’s time to completely abandon their job-killing ‘cap and trade’ energy tax. While I will continue pursuing the elimination of all czars, I call on President Obama to use this resignation as an opportunity to permanently eliminate the position of climate czar and save the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars while abandoning his pursuit of a reckless ‘cap and trade’ energy tax.”
Although House Republicans have thus far argued that their attempts to defund “czar” programs are meant to address wasteful spending and a lack of transparency in the Obama administration, it was in fact under President George W. Bush that the number of executive officials not confirmed by the Senate jumped from 7 to 28. There are currently 32 program directors in the executive office who would be considered “czars” under Rep. Scalise’s definition.