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Friday, January 7, 2011

House Republicans Push Bill to Shut Down White House 'Czars'

House Republicans have President Obama's "czars" in their crosshairs once again, introducing a bill this week that would effectively shut down their offices.

The bill, authored by Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., is a revamped version of a proposal that went nowhere in the last Congress. But with Republicans in charge of the House this year and a particularly combative Republican in charge of the committee that will be considering the measure, the proposal might have a fighting chance this time around.

"We're hopeful for this one," Scalise spokesman Stephen Bell told

Though the definition of a "czar" is muddy at best, it generally refers to top-level administration officials who don't have to go through the Senate confirmation process. The Scalise bill aims to be a bit more specific than that, defining a "czar" as the "head of any task force, council, policy office within the Executive Office of the President" or similar office, appointed "without the advice and consent of the Senate."

Scalise's office estimates that 39 officials in the Obama administration fall under this description. The bill would order Congress to cut off all funding for them and the offices they control. Presumably, the president could afterward try to reinstate them by seeking Senate confirmation.

"It's to encourage transparency," Bell said. "So that everybody knows who they are, what they stand for."

The bill, introduced on the first day of the session Wednesday, has so far attracted 28 other co-sponsors. The White House could not be reached for comment on the proposal.

Though past efforts to target these posts have failed, the Scalise bill might get some attention this year as it heads next to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., a leading Obama administration
critic, is the new chairman of that committee and has already set the stage for a rigorous agenda of hearings. (Continues here)

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