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. Sheri

    Why is it that anyone who disagrees the President Obama is wrong......Obama is not perfect and he can be wrong in his decisions.....he is no Messiah or our Savior....just a lucky man

    February 25, 2009 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  2. chelle

    Ummmmm he didn't dis the appointments...he is disagreeing with the process. No problem with that – make these people answerable to someone outside the executive branch. The the Repubs can't point fingers in any way.

    February 25, 2009 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  3. I voted for change!!!!!

    Sue, I agree with you. I think the elder Senators such as Byrd, should retire. As far as I know, the only thing Byrd created that benefits the US companies is in Trade Programs.

    February 25, 2009 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  4. Ginny

    I don't share Senator Byrd's concern about the appointments the President has made. He has promised to maintain an open and accountable presidency and I think he will.

    February 25, 2009 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  5. Mari


    February 25, 2009 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  6. honestly

    Senator Byrd: Please relax. We are watching.

    February 25, 2009 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  7. Jayden,FL

    Mr Byrd i think its time to retire and relax home! you're 91 you should be enjoying your grandchildren and children and let someone else worry about the "Czars"

    February 25, 2009 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  8. Cue the hate-filled responses

    You people are absolutely pathetic. Is President Obama un-touchable from any criticism at all? What would he have to do to be subject from any criticism at all in your eyes? Attack Sen. Byrd because he brings up a VALID point...a point that he is making only to PROTECT President Obama from any backlash in the future. Now you want him to shut up and go away.

    I think I get it now. If you don't have something nice to say about President Obama, you should keep your mouth shut, smile, and be on your way. No room for any criticism at all because that would be un-American or (gasp) racist!

    For the record, I thought his speech last night was good. Much better tone than he has portrayed in the past few weeks. Unfortunately, Wall Street didn't seem to think much of the substance of his speech, losing another 175 points in the first 2 hours of trading.

    OK...I'm going back to sit here quietly in the corner. No room for any criticism here!

    February 25, 2009 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  9. jimmy-ohio

    i think the senator is right,,,i voted for the president and still support him but if we are going to claim to be the reformers we must walk the walk

    February 25, 2009 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  10. Once you vote Black

    Is it true that this guy use to be a klansmen? Anyway, if Obama wants a czar he can have as he wants

    February 25, 2009 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  11. yuri

    Everybody wants to be heard and the presence felt. We may, perhaps, refuse to acknowledge that innate human nature, subconciously. Byrd is probably givin' us a piece of his mind, like other politicians. Now, that may trigger a melange of muffled mumblings. That's basically, us!

    February 25, 2009 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  12. Sam Sixpack

    Did anyone expect anything to change?

    February 25, 2009 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  13. Jim

    Reg in AZ: This has been going on since time began. So stop with the Bush bashing. Clinton was an expert at it. Step up and realize that ALL politicians, including the little o, are crooked.

    February 25, 2009 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  14. Southern Princess

    Racist... wish he would apologize for years on insensitivities and hate and then go away.

    February 25, 2009 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  15. Robert Piyush

    Good point, Senator- I'm sure President Obama will take your concerns into consideration.

    February 25, 2009 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  16. Noneya

    The most important aspect of a functioning government is a process that works. If you base your process on who is in office, then when the next person gets in, he/she can use the loopholes for personal or political gain. What Byrd says is perfectly legitimate – the whole purpose of our three branches of government is checks and balances. There have been far too many appointments and executive orders over the years by presidents whose intent is to circumvent those checks and balances. Let's not have another one... and even if Obama doesn't, what prevents the next president from doing so?

    February 25, 2009 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  17. Joe

    Anyone surprised by this needs to be on medicine. We have never seen anyone as corrupt as Obama. He just paid more than anyone in history to become president. Now he owes favors and he will be dishing money out to his pals regardless of what anyone, even his own party, thinks.

    We have 4 years of this so get used to it.

    February 25, 2009 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  18. Senior Citizen

    From some of the remarks made so far, you can tell that Obama's supporters are still using the media for their advantage. When it comes to running this country I believe that with age comes wisdom. That is something that I question whether the current President has. If so, why did he run on the promise of "Change" and then once elected he has appointed the same washington insiders that have been the problem with our government. I am not "old" but a young 65. Was a Democrat all my life till this year.

    February 25, 2009 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  19. Bob in Pa

    Wow, either Byrd is actually still alive or he has some very bright staff members.

    February 25, 2009 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  20. Dennis

    I guess it's the end of the "Transperancy Administration"

    February 25, 2009 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  21. Jackie in Dallas

    In some aspects of this contraversy, I agree with Senator Byrd, but so much of what he said is based on the bad taste left by having everyone on Bush's staff covered by executive privilege. That is a Presidential decision, and President Bush granted it to his staff. I do not think that President Obama will. I think having specialists is a good idea, and see no reason why they should be approved by the Senate or Congress if they are basically consultants.

    I've been impressed by the so called Czars appointed so far, and as long as President Obama makes them accountable for their actions and doesn't protect them behind a smoke screen, I think they are fine.

    February 25, 2009 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  22. Bananarama Victim

    Joe – Yes. At least our Blue "dictator" can spell dictator.

    Pot calling the kettle black calling the pot black.

    Are Republicans so ignorant to think that we think he's the messiah? That's your own ridiculous rhetoric. As for sexism, last I checked the mere mention of Palin had most conservatives that were unsure of McCain jump ship immediately.

    But sure, yeah one side is completely right, the other wrong. Are we a nation of five year-olds? Answer: Yes.

    February 25, 2009 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  23. Jenny from IN

    Byrd may have a point. I voted for and support Obama, but he needs to be careful. Obviously, Obama is NOT George W. Bush, he has already opened up a significant amount of transparency, but he does need to be careful.

    With that being said, I'm not a fan of Sen. Byrd. This is the same old guy who teamed up with Mitch McConnell and threatened the man responsible for the energy use in the Capital when he said he wanted to switch from coal to natural gas. I know you're from West Virginia, but somebody's getting a little too big for his britches.

    February 25, 2009 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  24. Andy J, Upstate NY

    amazing how people are willing to sacrifice common sense principles and disagree with Byrd, simply because they can't stand the thought of Obama doing something thats underhanded and not transparent at all.

    True danger comes when people are willing to sacrifice their principles and common sense to support a politician or political party.

    I;m a libertarian, definitely not a Byrd supporter, but the PRINCIPLE he is describing rings true.

    We're definitely screwed.

    February 25, 2009 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  25. reagan fan forever

    Here's the ultimate fact of the matter: the gov't has to be secretive about many things in order to keep our borders safe.

    Did you ever consider the fact that if a piece of information is available to the American public, it is also available to America's enemies?

    It is rather hilarious, however, to watch liberals defend 'their guy' when he does the VERY SAME THINGS they peed their pants over when W did them.

    February 25, 2009 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
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