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. Dr Firefly

    He maybe old, and I might not like everything he says, but this time he is on spot. It's dangerous when someone has as much control as the new "Czars" and only have to answer to one man... Sadly my friends Welcome to the Fourth Reich, if only more of us would learn from the past. Sad...

    Dr FF

    February 25, 2009 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  2. Sarahs cheerleader

    He is right,lets not give them anyway to hide the truth from us again,like the last moron in there.If I wanted a Czar,I would go to Russia and dig one up.

    February 25, 2009 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  3. KLK

    Sombody's ship has sailed.

    February 25, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  4. Finch in CA

    That old fool finally got something right. Now, let's get Obama and Biden out of the White House before they destroy our country.

    February 25, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  5. grahame

    We are so proud of Robert Byrd particularly when he co-starred in 'Gone With The Wind' and don't forget he was on the set as technical advisor since he was actually a teenager during the Civil War anyway. The big flaw in his argument though is that somebody has to be in charge so that they can take responsibility for his or her department. So goodbye Robert along with Scarlet and Rhet and all the gang and don't forget Scarlets last words in the movie ...............
    'Tomorrow is another Day'

    Or in your case perhaps not.

    February 25, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  6. Bob the Observer

    I really think Mr. Obama should listen intently to the advice of the only member of the senate who has also been a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

    Yeah, right.

    February 25, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  7. carlo

    I wonder why I never heard any outrage like this for the past 8 years. We had no clue what Bush and his cronies were doing in there, yet I don't recall Senators or Congressmen demanding anything from him or his administration.

    February 25, 2009 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  8. Gene from Georgia

    Like it or not, Sen. Byrd has a point. As tempting as it is to take the previous administration's arrogance, disregard for Constitutional law and outright criminality and shove it right back down the Republicans' hypocritical throats, that's not the higher path that President Obama has justifiably called for.

    February 25, 2009 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  9. kww in WV

    Robert Byrd is my senator. He may be old and physically feeble, but mentally, he is razor sharp. He knows the Constitution like the back of his hand and repeatedly called out Bush on his violations. Unfortunately, the GOP ran roughshod over any attempts to rein Bush in.

    I will continue to vote for Sen. Byrd as long as he wants to stand for re-election.

    February 25, 2009 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  10. martin

    it seems like obama supporters will bash anyone who criticizes Obama. It don't matter what party, their accomplishments, their stature and standing in Congress. This point is important since Obama says he wants to put a new era of transparency to government and yet appoints these "czars" basically to bypass the vetting and questioning by the Senate. There is no transparency here. Obama is just a Democratic Bush.

    February 25, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  11. David from Delaware

    Gotta love Senator Byrd. His perspective and historical recollection is condusive to the Congressional oversight that is needed to keep balance between the Executive and Legislative branches of government. I don't believe in term limits. Senator Byrd and others of long standing give me great satisfaction in knowing someone is in DC who remembers the ills of the past and tries to prevent us from making those same mistakes in the future.

    February 25, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  12. Sniffit

    So says the Exalted Cyclops!

    February 25, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  13. Matthew, Detroit

    SUE MISSOURI,

    You are another one.

    What about Ted Kennedy. He is a very old BIRD.

    McCain and Byrd have very little political similarities. Although as a Moderate McCain agrees with more of the left wing garbage than you probably realize. He tried to ACT as if he was conservative so he could run on the Republican side. But truth be told he is moderate at best.

    I still find it funny that sum of you DEMS would sacrifice your own people because you think they are now TOO old or Irrelevant. You dont even know what Byrd has done for your party.

    I do agree though, I would love to get rid of all of those old crony Dems like Kennedy and Byrd. They have been for entitlements, welfare, and spending for the last 100 years.

    February 25, 2009 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  14. Matthew, Detroit

    SUE MISSOURI,

    You are another one.

    What about Ted Kennedy. He is a very old BIRD.

    McCain and Byrd have very little political similarities. Although as a Moderate McCain agrees with more of the left wing garbage than you probably realize. He tried to ACT as if he was conservative so he could run on the Republican side. But truth be told he is moderate at best.

    I still find it funny that some of you DEMS would sacrifice your own people because you think they are now TOO old or Irrelevant. You dont even know what Byrd has done for your party.

    I do agree though, I would love to get rid of all of those old crony Dems like Kennedy and Byrd. They have been for entitlements, welfare, and spending for the last 100 years.

    February 25, 2009 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  15. Marc

    I voted for Obama, and believe a lot of what he's trying to do is right, but Sen. Byrd does have a point. One thing Obama campaigned on was transparancy in government.

    Considering that these "czars" (I hate that term) are instrumental in policy making and expenditure of tax dollars, they should be included in the oversight that is part of the check and balance system in this country.

    February 25, 2009 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  16. Doug, New Jersey

    Lib media wont let him use the n word on national tv without repurcussions again like they did in 2000.

    Byrd will now be treated like a republican, welcome to being an enemy of the most sexist, racist people in America, just ask Steele and Palin.

    February 25, 2009 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  17. Joe in NJ

    "Seniors can do little to make the necessary changes because most of them are stuck in the past. "

    I'm sure my 82-year-old father will enjoy reading this on his iPhone.

    February 25, 2009 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  18. Splurge

    I wonder, if agisim was as powerful a hot button topic as racisim would any of you be deinigrating Byrd?

    February 25, 2009 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  19. stillsupportspresident

    The man's age is irrelevant. Since when is there so much disrespect to elders? I guess we could take a lesson from the East in that area. I don't care about his age. I don't agree with what he states. He had no problem with the level of secrecy promulgated by Cheney but is now accusing Obama of something that has not even occurred yet in the most transparent Presidency that we may ever have? He is smart...he is trying to attack Obama in areas that he promised to his constituents and the American people at large but you have seen the polls...America has spoken. I am tired of these men playing who has the biggest whoo whoo and ignoring 300 million Americans who need change and improvement. I am tired of all the egos. They claim Obama has an ego simply because Americans SUPPORT him...correlation does not prove causation. His ego is not predicated upon our support...he seems to have a very healthy balanced ego. It is many of the Republicans who care more about power/egos than their own constituents.

    February 25, 2009 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  20. janet, ohio

    Matt in MN - You are obviously a man of depth. I would like to thank you for making it unnecessary for me to comment on the article because you said it all.

    Shari and Sue are apparently eager to take us into a brave new world where the President need not be accountable to anyone except his almighty self. I'm not so sure they'd like that in a conservative president. I'm also quite sure they would limit the terms of only those members of Congress with whom they disagree.

    February 25, 2009 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  21. AFAM

    Sue im 23 and black.and you are wrong senator byrd was right.they only accountable to the president which makes the loose sight of the goal.this has nothing to do with age.and by the way im a democratic and a proud pres barack supporter.

    February 25, 2009 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  22. rob

    Byrd is a grumpy old white man.. its really time he retired. Just give him the bird !

    February 25, 2009 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  23. WhoCares?

    I am a Democrat and certainly support Obama but Byrd is right.

    How after watching Bush take a massive dump on the entire Checks & Balances premise can we then support the same thing just because it is "our" guy.

    They all should be required to have senate approval.

    February 25, 2009 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  24. What AboutUS

    Why are so few people willing to even listen to criticism of Obama .. leave alone actually criticizing HIM??
    Wake up people .. please .. Obama is a snake oil salesman !!
    He has nothing new to offer .. what he has going for him are his race (which make it difficult to say anything negative about him without be labelled a racicst) and his smoooooottth tongue ..

    February 25, 2009 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  25. Truth Hurts

    I agree,

    With I love my seniors and children but after or before a certain age it needs to be a rule put forth. I respect my elder's but at 91 you need to be at home enjoying the rest of your life, not making grand decisions.

    February 25, 2009 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
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