Senate kills measure to defund policy 'czars'

The Senate voted 47-51 on Thursday to kill an amendment offered by Sen. David VitterDavid VitterHow Congress got to yes on toxic chemical reform Overnight Energy: House Dem leaders back chemical safety overhaul Overnight Energy: Lawmakers closing in on chemical safety deal MORE (R-La.) that would have ended the ability of the White House to appoint policy "czars,” and prohibited the use of federal funds for the salaries and expenses of czars already appointed.

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The measure needed 60 votes to pass.

Before the vote, Sen. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerOvernight Healthcare: House, Senate on collision course over Zika funding Ryan goes all-in on Puerto Rico Cruz's dad: Trump 'would be worse than Hillary Clinton' MORE (D-N.Y.), the Senate’s third-ranking Democrat, decried the amendment from the floor as an attempt to weaken the Democratic presidency and as a “poison pill” for the underlying legislation.

"It is a poison pill designed to handcuff the president's ability to assemble a team of top-flight advisers and aides," Schumer said. 

Vitter was attempting to attach the amendment to a bill that would streamline the presidential appointment process.

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Vitter, who offered the amendment along with Republican Sens. Rand PaulRand PaulWill Ted Cruz let it go? 5 takeaways from the rush for campaign cash Paul calls for end of gun-free zones MORE (Ky.), Dean HellerDean HellerLake Mead hits record low water level Tough choice for vulnerable GOP senators: Embrace or reject Trump Press: Forget about GOP unity in 2016 MORE (Nev.) and Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyReid knocks GOP over 'light' Senate schedule Overnight Tech: Facebook finds no bias but vows to change trending feature Grassley worried about FCC box proposal MORE (Iowa), argued that the czars appointed by Obama possess too much power and ought to be under the jurisdiction of the Senate. 

“These czars are provided with a considerable amount of power and influence, putting them on the same level as cabinet members who are thoroughly vetted and approved by the U.S. Senate, but without the public scrutiny,” said Vitter in a press release.  “I’m very concerned about that undefined authority of what are essentially political advisory positions, especially when the decisions they make can have a profound effect on our lives.”