Amendment to defund existing positions, block future appointments draws bipartisan support

An amendment from Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) that would defund existing czar positions in the Obama Administration and require Senate approval before any new positions of this type are filled will be used as a model for future legislation.

Vitter’s amendment to the Nominations Process Reform Bill fell just short in a 47-51 vote this past June. All Republicans present and Democrat Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Ben Nelson (D-Ne.) supported the amendment.

“Obama’s czars have a great deal of power and authority and should be subject to the scrutiny of public opinion by going through the Senate confirmation process,” Vitter said in a statement to the Pelican Institute. “As long as the czars continue calling shots that have a profound effect on our lives, like how the Climate Czar was instrumental in forcing the job-killing moratorium, I’ll continue pushing my legislation to prohibit their funding.”

The Vitter amendment would have eliminated funding for newly established administrative offices that are headed by a ‘czar.’ It also expands the definition of what is considered a ‘czar’ to include the head of any task force, council, policy office or similar office established by the president that has not been confirmed by the U.S. Senate. This would not include the National Security Advisor.

Right from the outset of the Obama Administration, Vitter has argued against the use of policy czars who can move and shape policy without answering to Congress.

In 2009, Vitter introduced an amendment to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Interior (DOI) spending bill that would prohibit any federal funds from being directed to programs or policies initiated by the White House Climate Change Czar.

Van Jones, an avowed former communist, previously served as the “green jobs czar” in the Obama Administration. But he was forced out of his position in September 2009 after his political activities were highlighted by Glenn Beck on Fox News. Jones signed the 9/ petition that claimed President Bush was behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Since leaving his White House position in September 2009, Jones went on to serve as a senior fellow with the Center for American Progress (CAP), a liberal-leaning research and advocacy group headed up by John Podesta, who served as President Clinton’s chief of staff. Jones also founded Color of Change, a 501c4 non-profit that came together in response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. After targeting the advertisers for the Glenn Beck program earlier this year, Color of Change now takes credit for the separation between Beck and Fox News.

Don Todd, research director with Americans for Limited Government, warns that there is very little daylight between Jones and other unelected czars who continue to operate in influential positions. The “Appointments Watch” project Todd organized on behalf of ALG yielded some sobering results.

“When we started with the project we used to do 10 worst, now we do 10 typical because they are all so hard left, there is a constant thread through all the appointees,” Todd said. “It’s very frightening and no one has picked up on it in the media except for Glenn Beck. It’s important to point out that Van Jones is not an outlier, his ideology is not unusual for an Obama appointee.”

Kevin Mooney is an investigative reporter with the Pelican Institute for Public Policy. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter.