February 25th, 2009
11:41 AM ET
9 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. John C

    The funny part is that these comments are ridiculously off-topic and irrelevant. Criticizing Senator Byrd's age is so shallow as to be laughable. It's up to his electorate to judge his performance, so if they're dissatisfied with his grasp on the issues of the day, including this criticism, let them remove him.

    What this issue is about, as always, is power. Sen. Byrd believes that the Senate needs to retake some of the power the Executive has gathered over the past decade or so. Pres. Obama will likely rebuff Mr. Byrd and continue to enjoy the enhanced power the Executive has gained by the use of these "Czars." Instead of irrelevant, and useless, rhetoric, if Mr. Byrd feels so strongly about the issue, it's time the Senate argues that these appointments are an illegal infringement of the balance of power and take this to the Supreme Court.

    That is HIGHLY unlikely, as it would most certainly result in a backlash against Mr. Byrd by his own, Democratic electorate. No, this is just pointless grandstanding that would have instead resulted in a lawsuit had John McCain won were a Democratic majority in congress.

    February 25, 2009 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  2. Rita

    You have to love the dems lol, if President Bush had hired all these people to be "Czars" and therefore answers only to the President, the uproar would be deafening, now since it is the annointed one, it is the Senior citizen that made the correct logical point, that should go home! ow twisted is that?

    February 25, 2009 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  3. Mike S., New Orleans

    He makes some very good points. But honestly, I was surprised to hear he's still ticking.

    February 25, 2009 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  4. Chad, Wisco

    I cant believe some of the comments. Some of you are treating Obama as royalty. He's not. And in truth he has no more power than the Legislative or Judicial branches of our government. He should have no special privalages than any of us would have.

    February 25, 2009 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  5. cpanioto

    OK-so what does Byrd's age have to do with a story about the potential of WH "Czars" not being accountable to the people? What happened to all those who were screaming for transparancy? What happened to all those screaming for accountability? It's all OK if the person in charge is young? anything those big bad old people do is wrong and in the past? Boy–you all have a lot to learn and I really don't want to be on the losing end of the stick when you learn that yes, Virginian, even young, attractive, well spoken, intelligent elected officials make mistakes, lie, cheat, steal, hide actions and everyting else old people do....THAT's why accountablitily is so important and oversight of EVERYONE is a must...

    February 25, 2009 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  6. WhoCares?

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

    We can't get angry how Bush destoyed the Checks & Balances of the American Governemnt and then think it is ok just because it is our "guy".

    They should all have Senate oversight and approval.

    February 25, 2009 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  7. D in Phoenix

    This is a fair concern. However, if Byrd and his cronies would quit letting scum like Rove stonewall them, the abuse for executive privilege would be broken. And while you're at it, clean up that filibuster thing that plagues the confirmation process.

    If the Congress would get its act together, this wouldn't be a problem

    February 25, 2009 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  8. Joe

    you democrats are amazing! you whine, and pout, and moan about how W. had the most secretive presidency in history, about how government is corrupt, and then – when one of your most staunch advocates speaks up and dares to question your messiah – to remind him of his promise to change government so that it is open & transparent – you pounce on him and ridicule him for his age...

    So far – in the past year – I have seen the democrats show their sexist, racist, and ageist point of views...

    I guarantee you that if you continue down this road – you will lose both the house & the senate as well as the white house...

    You can not promise one thing – deliver another – and expect the support of the country...

    Are you really this ignorant – that you would trade one dictator for another...so long as he is blue and not red?

    February 25, 2009 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  9. Steve

    Read the letter and focus on the content.
    Byrd is calling for transparency and to curtail the potential use of executive privilege and non accountability to the governing body-Congress.

    Maybe you idiots don't think that is important.......look at history and use your brain.

    February 25, 2009 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  10. Alice

    Obama needs to shut up. Every time he opens his big lying mouth, the stock market plummets. Can't he just put tape over that mouth of his for a day or two and let the market recover just a little bit?

    February 25, 2009 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  11. Deb

    With all due respect Sentator, it is time to Retire! President has enough opposition from the Republicans certainly does not need any from Democrats.

    February 25, 2009 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  12. simon

    After all this would be in line with Obama's call for

    So why the Resistance?

    February 25, 2009 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  13. Virginia

    Well now is not the time to be saying this–should have been done when Nobama first started this nonsensical appointment process! But, more crooked Illinois cronies going unchecked. Thanks Nobama, for your transparency!!

    February 25, 2009 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  14. Sam Sixpack

    Why did anyone expect anything to change?

    February 25, 2009 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  15. Sue - Missouri

    Matt – Det: I'm talking about all the old folks including the one's you named. BTW I'm an ind. voter and didn't vote for Mr. O but I'm in support of him at this time... We need change! Ole People don't get it period (pun intended)!

    February 25, 2009 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  16. LIZ

    Didn't President Obama promise transparency in this administration? Sen. Byrd is right–they should be subject to Senate approval in order to meet the President's promise.

    February 25, 2009 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  17. Dutch/Hampton Roads, VA

    90 years old. I'm a leftie, but there seriously needs to be a debate on super senior citizen politicians. Just like the military has an age limit, so should congressman.

    February 25, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  18. jeremy

    byrd should have written that letter a few months ago. where was he during the Bush administration?

    February 25, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  19. Lee

    He has been more transparent than all the previous administrations! the CZARS are not cabinet level members, just high paid staffers and advisors, they have no powers to call any shots, therefore no need to grill them before congress until the administration screws up. People need to get off their high with trying to prove President Obama wrong, he has been in office just over a month and has improved the U.S. image within and abroad.

    Grow up people, you were not calling for all this before; WHY NOW?

    February 25, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  20. Dieter Zerressen, Denver, CO

    I'm not worried about titles, I'm worried about competency. Remember, "your doing a great job, Brownie" and Fredo Gonzales? Let's see what someone does first then we can complain about the title and Senate approval. Rumsfield was approved by the Senate and how did that thing in Iraq work out? The only shock and awe was to our national deficit. Harriet Myers, Karl Rove, all those "lawyers" who "graduated" from Pat Robertson U politicizing the Justice Department – that's the kind of stuff you should worry about.

    February 25, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  21. johnrj08

    I never liked Byrd, but he makes a good point. However, I don't think he's accusing Obama of trying do anything nefarious here. Obviously, the President wants these key people in place immediately and doesn't want their appointments mired down in an approval process that would likely drive away the most qualified candidates. I'm sure he can work this out with Byrd. You may hate Byrd and think he's just a redneck in liberal camouflage, but it turns out that he was dead right about Iraq.

    February 25, 2009 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  22. Irma in North Carolina

    Yes I think someone who is in there ninetys is way to old to serve, they for sure should have an age limit of 75 at the most.

    February 25, 2009 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  23. WhoCares?

    "you democrats are amazing!"

    Oh get a grip..You are talking about what 5-6 people on here so far?

    And some Democrats are saying that Byrd is right..

    Compare that to you Republicans that NEVER EVER said that Bush was wrong about anything.

    February 25, 2009 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  24. bj, Texas

    Let the eldest lib tell it like it is. "Yes we can". "Change we can count on". What a crock this administration has turned out to be in just a few weeks. The most inexperienced president in the history of our country.

    February 25, 2009 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  25. Mari

    Senator Byrd has a right to voice his opinion, and I have a right to disagree!

    Our Nation is in a crisis, we need all the help we can get.

    The only opposition I have to the "czars" is the name...... can't President Obama come up with a better name for these folks?

    February 25, 2009 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
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