FEBRUARY 25, 2009
The longest serving Democrat in the U.S. Senate is blasting the president for appointing several White House czars to oversee federal policy, claiming they can threaten the Constitutional system of checks and balances.
West Virginia’s Robert Byrd, the Senate pro tempore, believes President Obama’s newly created positions risk expanding executive privilege and weakening the authority of Congress. In a two-page letter to the president Byrd supports his assessment with examples of past administrations—Nixon and Bush II—that allowed White House staff to assume too much power.
Byrd criticizes Obama for the creation of White House czars to oversee Health Reform, Urban Affairs Policy and Energy and Climate Change Policy, stating that these types of positions can blur the lines of authority and responsibility to shield information and obscure the decision-making process.
He asserts that the rapid and easy accumulation of power by White House staff can threaten the Constitutional system of checks and balances, pointing out that these presidential assistants are not accountable for their actions to Congress, rarely testify before congressional committees and often shield the information and decision-making process behind the assertion of executive privilege.
Obama has hired so many influential advisors and so-called czars to shift power from traditional cabinet posts that one news report referred to his White House as the West Wing on Steroids. Another said Obama’s staff is so loaded with big names and overlapping duties that it could collapse into chaos unless managed with a juggler’s skill.
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