GOP senators who opposed Obama 'czars' now want one for Ebola

Meredith Shiner
Political correspondent
Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee member Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., speaks during the confirmation hearing of Robert McDonald, to examine his nomination to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 22, 2014. (AP Photo)

Republican Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas was one of the first lawmakers to call on the Obama administration to appoint a czar to help coordinate the U.S. response to the Ebola crisis in Africa, along with a cluster of cases at home.

The problem? Almost five years earlier to the day, Moran introduced legislation urging Obama to cease the practice of appointing czars. Moran, who was then a congressman running for the U.S. Senate, also sponsored a bill that would prohibit the federal government from using taxpayer money to pay the salaries of such unconfirmed administration officials — which would have effectively ended the practice of appointing them.

"The Obama Administration's excessive czar appointments exemplify the ever-expanding federal bureaucracy and big government that Kansans and Americans have grown tired of," Moran said then, according to a cache of the release posted on Project Vote Smart. "The increasing use of unconfirmed government officials is irresponsible — it is time Congress stops the executive branch from abusing this flawed appointment process. I have introduced this resolution to condemn the increased use of unconfirmed government officials and heads of agencies."

Accusations of presidential overreach are still a central part of the Republicans' political message to counter Obama and the Democrats.

CLICK IMAGE for slideshow: A doctor keeps a pedestrian away from the JFK Ebola treatment center on October 13, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. (Getty Images/John Moore)

Of course, now that the news of Ebola is dominating the cable airwaves and the pandemic in Africa has become a political weapon for Republican candidates in the approaching midterm elections, Moran’s tune on czars has changed. Moran, who was elected to the Senate in 2010 on a GOP wave, is now the chairman of the Senate Republicans' campaign arm, the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Last week, Moran co-wrote a letter with Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., that encouraged the White House “to consider bringing well respected former administration officials with a background in public health and international diplomacy” to “help lead a united, global response to this serious threat to public health and security.” The Washington Post, in a piece titled “GOP lawmakers to Obama: Appoint a high-profile Ebola czar like Colin Powell,” noted that all of the suggested point people were former George W. Bush administration officials, from former Secretary of State Powell to former Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Moran and Wolf requested a response from the White House by Friday, Oct. 17.

As the GOP chorus for the appointment of a czar grows — Sen. John McCain of Arizona also has called for one — it not only highlights a change in position on the practice once decried by the party as a top example of Obama’s overreach, it also underscores an important vacancy in America’s public health infrastructure. The position of U.S. surgeon general, the nation’s top health advocate, is empty, and the administration’s nominee has seen his confirmation blocked by Republicans since February. The National Rifle Association is opposed to the nomination of Vivek Murthy for surgeon general because of his characterization of gun deaths as a health issue.

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