February 25th, 2009
11:41 AM ET
6 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. Anna

    Don't speak of Democrats as collective. We're all diverse and don't share the same viewpoint. I think Byrd makes a valid point and I agree that I don't think he's criticizing Obama but instead is giving him and the public advice.

    No matter how powerful the cabinet members may be, or how secretive they may or may not get, we still have the power to tear them down and scandalize them.

    Obama's administration so far has been very press-oriented. It's the press through which we can check the actions of these people.

    I just hope CNN, FOX, and all of the other news organizations out there will keep a very close, watchful eye on these officials.

    February 25, 2009 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  2. RDSMITH

    My, my, my. The party that totes itself as the party of tolerance, bouncing on a person because he is "old". You would never have gotten away with those comments if you had said because he is "gay" or "black" or "muslim". Be very careful grasshopper, your attitude borders on hateful. Just because someone is old, doesn't mean he can't have honest concerns and the fact that he was bold enough to express them (when many others in his party probably feel the same way, but choose to look the other way for the sake of the party) speaks volumes about HIS character and what he believes in.

    February 25, 2009 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  3. Steve

    Byrd would know about this. He's been in the middle of it for decades.
    Everyone is jumping to conclusions before things have even started to move forward. Obama has been in office slightly over 4 weeks, and is working to undo almost a decade of incredible mismanagement from both Democrats and Republicans. Let's give him a chance and see what he can do. Doing things they way they have been done, because old crows like Byrd say that's the way it should be done is nonsense. We cannot, under any circumstances, continue with business as usual. That has gotten us to where we are now. If you don't have new ideas, and new ways of thinking, then stand aside.

    February 25, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  4. Steve(the smart one)

    The Senator is right,lets not give them anyway to hide the truth,like the last President did.We have to remember he is a member of skull and bones gang also,along with Robert Gates,and we have no clue what their agenda is.

    February 25, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  5. RDS

    As you can see..POWER does not concede easily!

    February 25, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  6. Steve in CT

    Each "czar" is quietly representing someone and since nobody has such a quick skyrocket rise to power without owing a lot of favors.this is a way to repay those favors without it being seen. It politics as usual.

    February 25, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  7. geecee

    Obama has promised a "transparent" government at all levels and just because certain members of his administration may not be subject to oversight doesn't mean they will run amok and make bad decisions that will hurt the Country. Obama will make certain he appoints people with integrity to get the job done right and people who do not have any "hidden" agendas. By the way, Sen. Byrd is hardly a "liberal" Dem. He's a Dixiecrat if ever I saw one. Definitely in the mold of Strom Thurmond.

    February 25, 2009 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  8. gem

    Obama can't ever be worse than "w" the hardware store greeter! I personally don't think he is qualified for that position let alone President.

    February 25, 2009 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  9. Dems gone wild

    "grumpy old white man" "KKK member"

    Boy you Obamabots are really over the top, and are still blinded by your talking robot Mr O'Blah Blah

    Obama sure talks a lot, but he never really says anything. His decisions to date are poor. He has broken many promises already. Sooner or later, America will come to realize that this guy just does not have the experience to lead .... and you certainly do not need experience to spend a trillion dollars.

    Obama should go back to community organizing; He and Burris should have lunch

    February 25, 2009 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  10. Michael M, Phoenix AZ

    Now a Republican wants to eleminite Executive Priviledge....why not when the other party was in charge?

    February 25, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  11. TexAnnie *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

    While I totally agree that the White House (and the REST of the government– ie: the Senate & the House of Representatives) need to operate openly, I have to tell you, Senator Byrd is starting to come off as absolutely senile and incompetent anymore. I'm not basing this on this particular instance, but on his general demeanor the last few years. I really think it's time for this man to retire. The Democratic party in West Virginia needs to find a new candidate to run for this man's seat so that West Virginian's will actually have competent representation. Mr. Byrd may be a nice guy, but I don't think he's playing with a full deck anymore.

    BTW, note to Byrd & Congress– when are you going to bring the hammer down on Karl Rove who refuses to answer your subpoena?? Talk about operating secretly!!! Rove was the granddaddy of all when it came to secrecy & deception.

    February 25, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  12. 2pacolypse Now

    This wouldn't be the same Senator Robert Byrd who used to be accused of doing the exact same things while being a defacto leader of the Klu Klux Klan? The hypocrites always come out in full force don't they?

    February 25, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  13. Sheri

    Mari.....get a grip

    February 25, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  14. Andy J, Upstate NY

    @ Who Cares?

    its not about Democrats or Republicans.

    Its not about left or right.

    Its about RIGHT and WRONG.

    stop with the partisan rhetoric. In case you didnt notice, you're just as bad as the "NEVER EVER Republicans" you bash.

    I think you fools need to re-read the Founding Fathers and our founding documents. The Federalist Papers might be a good place to start.

    WAKE UP, YOU FOOLS. Then, check out libertarian ideas. Freedom is a great thing.

    February 25, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  15. Sheri

    Mari.....get a grip

    February 25, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  16. Sheri

    Mari.....get a grip

    February 25, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  17. Bananarama Victim

    Why is it that Republicans think it only works one way? While you find it strange that democrats don't enjoy critique of their elected official (who would've thunk it?), I have yet to hear one person charge the critique as "treason."

    So soon we forget the social McCarthyism of Bush's first four years. At the time not only were his critics charged with treason, but also with not supporting the troops.

    Unbelieveable how you want it both ways and assume we can't remember back a few years. When you were in control and did no wrong. Only this mess is quite the contrary evidence, ain't it.

    BTW I think ALL Presidents should be held accountable. Including those I agree with.

    February 25, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  18. tony

    Are the neagtive commenters disagreeing with Sen. Bryds position?

    He is advocating transperency and accountablity.

    If you are disagreeing with him then it seems you favor an all-powerful executive branch, secrecy and no accountabilty. Correct me if I'm wrong.

    From a previous poster:
    "WH as a senator or congress person"
    I take it WH is White House?

    February 25, 2009 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  19. Ryan

    Well if you can't find a problem, make one up I guess.

    Here's the sad fact: Mr. Byrd has been in his position for 50 years...and he's been SO effective that I have NEVER heard of him before in my life!

    Seriously, who is this guy? I'm a political Junkie and this old Byrd passed me by...??

    What's he done? Huh? Wha..?

    February 25, 2009 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  20. Obama - Nothing Great So Far

    Obama's inexperience is showing. His party members are pointing at his weakness and mistakes. By looking at his performance, I can say he won't be elected after 4 years.

    February 25, 2009 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  21. Bill

    I like Obama as much as the next person, but Byrd is 100% correct on this one. Obama himself has blasted the previous administration for their secrecy and deceipt (and rightfully so), so why would he choose to follow suit and try to circumvent the process by appointing people that are not subject to the Senate's approval? Makes him look like he's trying to hide something. He should stop this practice now before the American people loose their confidence in him.

    February 25, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  22. Sam Sixpack

    Nothing has changed.

    February 25, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  23. Follow or Get out of the Way ...

    Senator Bryd's point is INVALID not valid as one poster has suggested.

    Ultimately, any legislative action will flow through the Congress and that is when Byrd and his colleagues would have a chance to weigh in. The checks and balances have always been there.

    What President Obama is doing by appointing these "czars" is empowering people of high intelligence with the authority to strategize and implement on his behalf ... thereby MULTIPLYING his effectiveness and reach. In may not be the way that Bryd is use to having to operate but ... sorry guy .... things are changing.

    Call me when Obama violates the Constitution.

    February 25, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  24. RH

    I agree with Byrd, but his argument would carry a lot more weight if he were also demanding Bush-era aides be held to the same standard and compelled to comply with Congressional subpoenas.

    There is a difference between privacy and secrecy.

    February 25, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  25. Biased

    Once again democrats stand for no disagreement because Obama is sacred and even turn on their own. Notice they don't discuss his points of concern only being critical of his age. What a shame that your annointed one promised a change in Washington but you will never allow that since you turn against your own based on their gender or their age and totally ignore the fact that these people have more experience and knowledge than Obama could ever hope to attain. You dare complain about republicans being negative when you Obama diehards are twice as bad. You tolerate nothing unless undieing adoration. You all were quick to quote Byrd's knowledge of the Constitution when it suited you as you complained about Bush nonstop nd his abuse of it.

    February 25, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
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