Debate Over Selected Presidential Assistants and Advisors: Appointment, Accountability, and Congressional Oversight [March 31, 2014]   [open pdf - 606KB]

"A number of the appointments made by President Barack H. Obama to his Administration or by Cabinet secretaries to their departments have been referred to, especially by the news media, as 'czars.' For some, the term is used to convey an appointee's title (e.g., climate 'czar') in shorthand. For others, it is being used to convey a sense that power is being centralized in the White House or certain entities. When used in political science literature, the term generally refers to White House policy coordination or an intense focus by the appointee on an issue of great magnitude. Congress has noticed these appointments and in the 111th Congress examined some of them. The Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution of the Committee on the Judiciary, and the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, for example, conducted hearings on the 'czar' issue on October 6, 2009, and October 22, 2009, respectively. One issue of interest to Congress may be whether some of these appointments (particularly some of those to the White House Office), made outside of the advice and consent process of the Senate, circumvent the requirements of the Appointments Clause of the U.S. Constitution. A second issue of interest may be whether the activities of such appointees are subject to oversight by Congress."

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CRS Report for Congress, R40856
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