February 25th, 2009
11:41 AM ET
5 years ago

Byrd gives Obama heat over 'Czars'

Sen. Byrd has written a letter to the President.
Sen. Byrd has written a letter to the President.

(CNN) - One day after his address to a joint session of Congress, President Obama is taking heat from the most senior Democratic senator over the recent appointments of a handful of White House "czars."

Robert Byrd, the Senate pro tempore from West Virginia, said in a letter to the president he is concerned the appointments of new so called 'czars' in the offices of health, urban affairs and climate change are not subject to Senate approval and could therefore shield information from congress under the right of executive privilege.

"Too often, I have seen these lines of authority and responsibility become tangled and blurred, sometimes purposely, to shield information and to obscure the decision-making process," Byrd wrote in the letter.

“As presidential assistants and advisers, these White House staffers are not accountable for their actions to the Congress, to cabinet officials, and to virtually anyone but the president," he continued. "In too many instances, White House staff have been allowed to inhibit openness and transparency, and reduce accountability."

Byrd also urged the president to prohibit the right of executive privilege from appointees' in agencies overseen by the Senate.

Byrd, 91, is marking his 50th year in the Senate.


Filed under: Popular Posts • President Obama • Robert Byrd
soundoff (187 Responses)
  1. pat C.

    91 is to dam old to make any decision ,much less anything to to with politics. go retire somewhere old man. god there should be a limit on how long some of these old fools can hang on to our government. mccain is another one that needs to hang it up!!

    February 25, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  2. Laura, Boston

    Senator Byrd makes a lot of sense. I hope that President Obama will agree with Robert Byrd and not have these "czars" hide the way the Bush team did behind the old executive privelege thing.

    If we are really going to have transparency as Obama said than this would be a small start to show the American people he means what he says.

    February 25, 2009 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  3. REALIST

    91 years old and still in the senate? Did this guy ever consider retiring? 50 years and counting in the senate. Wow I wonder why I can't find a job. He is a good person but please 50 years is too much. I believe a lot of this senators republicans and democrats should simply retired and leave the place to the new generation.

    February 25, 2009 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  4. Justin from New Haven, CT

    I agree. I am sick of these "czars". Plus why use the name "czar", we're not ancient Russia.

    February 25, 2009 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  5. Independent Paul

    Look like the Bush "veil of secrecy" hasn't left the White House afterall.

    February 25, 2009 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  6. Brian

    RETIRE ALREADY...

    February 25, 2009 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  7. Shari, NY

    I love senior citizens, but there is a time, place and age for everything.

    February 25, 2009 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  8. KMAN

    Retire ... OLD man! You are not relevant to the present or future. You are a poster child for term limits.

    February 25, 2009 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  9. texas teacher

    Where were all these recriminations when Bush/Cheney were doing exactly what they wanted daring ANYONE to criticise their appointees. It makes me want to snicker at the double standard of the old timers who are still in office long after they should have retired! 91? Who would think that any 91 year old in the country would be qualified to run anything muchless be helping to make decisions that affect all the people in this country!

    Byrd is a very fine example of old time good ole boy politics! He does not want to let go of his power in anyway shape or form. I am quite sure that the Bush Agenda has done much to feather his nest! I am sure that he is one of those who bows done and worships at the memory of R. Reagan! Pffft... get these old relics out and let some new air breath into the congress!

    February 25, 2009 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  10. Nate

    And Byrd, 91 is losing it.

    February 25, 2009 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  11. Sam Sixpack

    Business as usual. Why did anyone expect anything to change?

    February 25, 2009 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  12. BL

    That's the past. Couldn't it be different this time?

    February 25, 2009 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  13. Byrd = Poster Boy for Term Limits

    Byrd, with a little help from Kennedy, Bunning and Spector have turned the U.S. Senate into the world's most expensive nursing home/perpetual care facility. By doing so he has disgraced himself and his state. For that, he should resign and give someone else the chance to serve. Fifty years is long enough.

    February 25, 2009 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  14. Chris, Albany NY

    I absolutely 100% agree with Sen. Byrd. What is it with the czars? This isn't Russia ya know, right???

    February 25, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  15. Former Republican

    Shouldn't he just retire?!!!

    February 25, 2009 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  16. Scott from St. Charles, MO

    What the heck, not like he has ever done anything in his career to solve the problems we have. He just another of the same old tired politician...West Virginia and the country would be better off with someone new.

    February 25, 2009 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  17. 37

    91!
    Oh please, what the H is he talking about. Shut up already

    February 25, 2009 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  18. Kirsten

    and now the truth comes out. You know Obamas doing a mediocre job when one of the most Democratic senators in the Senate calls him out on his decisions

    February 25, 2009 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  19. David S.

    Byrd is a grumpy old man, and an ex-KKK who now claims to be "reformed" but in this case he is right. Czars need to be appointed with caution.

    February 25, 2009 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  20. Baze

    I agree with Byrd, especially for the "czar" of urban affairs. Putting one person so close to questionable elements is a sure enough way to promote corruption. Add to that his shielding from Congress, and that could certainly get ugly. Having the President personally govern these officials will not work, because he won't be able to do that efficiently all the time.

    February 25, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  21. H. Charles

    "In too many instances, White House staff have been allowed to inhibit openness and transparency, and reduce accountability."

    Please note that this policy of inhibiting openness has been going on for the past 8 years and no one stepped up to the plate to ask for transparency. At least this administration has plans to be transparent.

    February 25, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  22. Cliff in Washington

    Why do the Dems. give the Republicans a pass on their claim of "Sound fundamentals" as recently as this fall? I think some of the American people need a reminder of that when they make the assertion that the economic crisis should be allowed to run it's course.
    Also, why should we assume that business leaders in this country will "do the right thing" when the great majority have proven they will only do the right thing for themselves when left to their own devices.

    February 25, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  23. 1/20/13

    For th efirst time in my life I agree with Sen Byrd........Czar's you have got to be kidding me. I know he is aiming for communism but try and hide it a little. Not to mention it being a waste of tax payer money. But hey, I guess we just print more Obama said so

    February 25, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  24. Jim, SC

    He makes an excellent point, and I agree with KMAN – he is the poster child for why we should look into placing term limits on congressmen.

    February 25, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  25. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia in CA

    He is right.

    February 25, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
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