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. Ken Austin

    The 'top Dem' is the President.

    After that, it's the Speaker of the House.

    After that it can be almost anyone. But Byrd? Maybe 'most senior Dem"?

    February 25, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  2. california grandma

    to Joe –
    so, you're basically admitting that Bush was a dictator?
    freudian slip, no doubt.
    how you can compare Obama's one month presidency to Bush's 8 years in the oval office is amazing to me.
    it's gonna take a long time to overcome the DAMAGE done by Bush.
    we can only hope that we have caught it in time and that the country can come back from such dysfunction.
    and, yeah, Bush's administration was a farce.
    get a grip, Joe.
    you are yet another example of the lack of education and critical thinking we as a society suffer from in America.
    I refer to calling Obama the messiah: think about this carefully before you follow the talking heads like lemmings over the cliff.
    These whack jobs on TV and radio who compare Obama to either the "beast" or "messiah" are another example of republican fear mongering.
    Sorry, Joe, we won't buy it.
    And, as long as these republicans and religious right zelots are perpetuating these dolus myths, republicans and the like will be voted OUT of office.
    We're (the majority) tired of all this dolus dogma.

    February 25, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  3. dave

    How dare a republican Question Obama!!!
    Oh he is a dem
    I mean how dare anyone question Obama.
    Wake up and live by the standards you have demanded for the last 8 years. Its becoming sickening
    With age comes wisdom, Something you cant learn in college.
    Theres allways a reason to hammer someone who doesnt agree with the way you think. Change and hope. When does it start.
    How old are you people???

    February 25, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  4. WhoCares?

    "I am not "old" but a young 65. Was a Democrat all my life till this year."

    LOL..So you were a democrat your entire life and here comes along one of the most liberal Democrats that we have had in awhile but you just switched eh?

    Geez...I wonder what other difference Obama had with past Democratic Presidents...hmmmm...I wonder....

    February 25, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  5. Bill, Alabama

    Mr. Byrd should take his Geritol and go home to stay. He is part of the problem.

    People like him that want to control everything is the reason the Bush administration botched this country up like it is now.

    February 25, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  6. WhoCares?

    "@ 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."

    Why don't you take a small gander at my first post? How does that foot taste?

    I will stand up though when some Republicans makes blanket-statements about ALL Democrats.

    February 25, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  7. old navy man (senior citizen)

    I really don't have any political ties being a career Navy man. Whoever was the commander in chief was my boss. BUT, at 91 Senator Byrd should step aside and let a bit younger qualified person take up the fight. I did at 65.

    February 25, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  8. Mary

    Well you know, when Mr. Byrd becomes President, he can do things his way. Until then, opinions are like.... everybody has one.

    February 25, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  9. Flo, Denver

    Sen. Byrd is not only a Senate historian who carries a copy of the Constitution with him, but is one of the top Senators in Congress. He may be liberal but has worked extensively with conservatives to get important legistation passed. With these credentials, if he has concerns (be he liberal or conservative) I'm listening and will be watching closely.

    February 25, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  10. Central Scruitinizer

    bj in texas.....well named. Yes he is doing terrible and asi was watching him last night I was thinking "God I wish the hateful old man mCaint wouold have won." Or better yet I would like to have SillySarah guiding us through these difficult times, with her brilliant insight and clear , articulate speaking style and folksy ideas about the economy, Gosh we would be doing sweel in no time........Obams just warming up. He is going to clean the Repugs clock. And like it or not, he is YOUR President. Crack a molar on that one,redneck gooberboy.

    February 25, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  11. cheryl brooks from cali

    Firstly, He's the President, who cares what comments are being made, we have a country in shambles!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The good Senator wasn't complaining eight years ago, is a matter of fact why don't he try and locate the THIRTY TRILLION THIS COUNTRY HAS SQUANDERED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OR STOLEN, LOST, WHAT EVER THE REASON IS FIND THE MONEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    February 25, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  12. Da Professor

    Could Byrd = Senile? Could Byrd be wondering out loud why he isn't a Czar of something, anything, send me a crumb Mr. President? Byrd makes a strong case for Term Limits and Max Age for serving in the Senate.

    I listened to the Jindel GOP radio response and was disappointed. I'm a Republican and Jindel couldn't hold a candle to the Obama speech. The usual Republican nonsense of pass the tax cuts for the wealthy and let the rest of the country bathe in the trickle-down from "on high", rides once again. Sorry boys ... We tried that and it is a "failed idea".

    February 25, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  13. Sam Sixpack

    Meet the new boss - same as the old boss.

    February 25, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  14. Kitchen Police

    We need a fresh breath of air, and transparency is the answer. I hope the President heeds his concern.

    February 25, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  15. Sean Chong

    We all learn from each other.... Czars may work better than the congress..... since when the congress worked at all?

    February 25, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  16. Steve from Somerset

    What difference does it make how old Sen. Byrd is? Would his complaint be more valid if he were younger? As for relevance, his decades of service in the Senate give him a perspective that most other legislators could never have.

    History shows that long-serving legislators like Henry Clay (approx, 30 years in the House and Senate), Daniel Webster (approx 25 years in the House and Senate), Arthur Vandenberg (approx. 23 years in the Senate), and Edward Kennedy (over 40 years in the Senate) made significant achievements that could not have been attained with shorter service.

    As for term limits, how would they prevent someone from running for his/her first term if that candidate is already past 70 or 80?

    February 25, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  17. floridian

    "Sue - Missouri"

    I think you miss the whole point about age, and that is that us old folks, who you suggest are "stuck in the past", also have something to offer that youth does not have. The point you miss is that our country's history offers a lot we can learn from, both good and bad. And, it is my understanding, that as this country's educational process moves forward we are seeing a re-write of its history by those who did not live it. And we do not resist change, we only challenge it when we see our leaders repeating mistakes or going against what worked in the past. I support President Obama's words and I hope he can make it happen. But it isn't going to become reality without all of us helping, both young and old.

    February 25, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  18. Mari in CT

    To Sue in Missouri: You stated "we have a President that understand we need to build the future for our children." Yes, our president is certainly building the future for our children–a future of massive debt that they will have to pay off!!

    February 25, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  19. TexasAlien

    Mari, I guess you don't know that it is insulting (and blasphemous) to those of us who practice Judaism, the religion Jesus practised, that some of you call him "Messiah."

    February 25, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  20. Jackie in Dallas

    I do agree with one other comment here...JOE, stop with the Messiah crap! I think that few people on the Democrat (or independents like myself) who voted for President Obama think any such thing. You will see me disagree with the President - I already have on several issues - but overall, think he is doing pretty well, considering the land mines left behind by the Bush Administration. I will agree he is an inspiration to many, but that does not make him a messiah, nor perfect.

    And while you are running around in circles calling him that, did you bother to criticize President Bush for anything? Probably not, and in fact, were probably one of the ones yelling that criticism of him was 'traitorous". Why did you refuse to acknowledge that the prior Administration eroded the rights of citizens, lied to us about the war in Iraq, and covered up hundreds of billions of dollars of corruption? Culpability, dude. You were complicit with President Bush by refusing to question him or disagree with him. So chill out, stop using terms like Messiah or Savior in your posts, and develop some perspective. It is fine to disagree with the President's decisions and policies...that's a part of your DUTY as a citizen, but being inflamatory, calling people who support him names and being negative for negativity's sake is counterproductive. You aren't going to change anybody's mind or convince them they are wrong. Logic, facts, and reason might.

    February 25, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  21. Flo, Denver

    Attention all conservatives, Senator Byrd is advocating openness and accountability. As a staunch Independent I also advocate oppenness and accountability, whether it comes from the right or the left.

    February 25, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  22. melvin

    from Sue:
    "......Seniors can do little to make the necessary changes because most of them are stuck in the past. ...."
    The past, would that be the past when people saved and lived within their means vs aquiring more debt than they can pay off?
    "........ we have a President that understand we need to build the future for our children. ....."
    Because they are the one that will be paying for this "$timulu$"
    I'll take the old timers any day!!

    February 25, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  23. Hayden Zeke

    They don't have bluetooth phones in West Virginia, they have one-tooth phones.

    February 25, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  24. Jill-In

    Where was Byrd's voice in the last 8 years. GOP – Goofy OLD party.

    February 25, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  25. Tim

    I doubt the Senator from West Virginia could put a coherent sentence together by himself. He is completely out of his mind and the poster child for term limits. Obviously some one wrote the statement in his name as he was probably sleeping during the President's address, dreaming of a time when he was relevant.

    February 25, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8