Collins to introduce czar amendment again

Maine Sen. Susan Collins (R) on Wednesday announced she would revive her effort to require the White House's policy czars to testify regularly before Congress.

Her amendment, which she first tried to attach to an appropriations bill without success, would also require their offices to submit periodic reports about their activities to congressional oversight committees. If they failed to comply, their departments could lose some federal dollars, she has previously suggested.

"The White House certainly is opposed to my amendment and fought it very hard and encouraged the vote to be on a procedural matter so that I never got a vote at all on the underlying merits," Collins told Fox News during an interview, noting that a number of Democrats, including Sens. Robert Byrd (W.Va.) and Russ Feingold (Wisc.), support her effort.

"The bottom line is that the White House is saying they are not going to make their czars, and there are some 18 of them that I have identified, available to Congress for oversight hearings," she added. "I think that is unfortunate. I think that is wrong."

President Barack Obama's policy czars have been on lawmakers' radars since this summer, and Congress has held a number of hearings to probe the legal aspects of the matter. Ultimately, each panel has determined that Obama -- and his predecessors, who also relied on czars -- is acting within the confines of the Constitution

However, that resolution has not stopped a number of lawmakers from embarking on their own campaigns to force those czars to testify, much as cabinet officials already do prior to confirmation. Collins belongs to that movement; she tried to add her amendment to an interior/environment appropriations bill this year, but Democrats objected, citing that it was inappropriate to add a policy amendment to a spending bill.

"This White House ran on a platform of total transparency, increased accountability, and I think that was very appealing to the American people," Collins said on Wednesday, repeating her objection to the Democrats' procedural move.

"But until they start making the czars available to Congress at public hearings so that we can question them, they are not living up to the promise they made the American people," she added.

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