(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.
(CNN) - Hilda Solis, recently confirmed as secretary of labor, was greeted Wednesday by a crowd of enthusiastic Labor Department employees who braved the cold to greet their new boss on her first day of work.
Solis was greeted as she stepped out of her car by interim acting Secretary of Labor Edward C. Hugler. She shook hands and signed autographs before addressing the crowd.
"As someone who came into this town eight years ago, I can't begin to tell you how incredibly emotional, happy, ... fired up and ready to go [I am] to get our country back to where it needs to be," she said.
Noting the difficult road ahead, she added, "We need to revitalize this agency and we will. We are going to be working and, like the president said yesterday, we are not quitters."
The Senate voted 80-17 Tuesday to confirm the four-term California congresswoman as the Obama administration's labor secretary.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - You know the old saying: “If at first you don’t succeed...you’re probably trying to pick a Commerce Secretary.”
The President today nominated former Washington State Gov. Gary Locke to lead the Commerce Department. And at the beginning of his comments, Obama made light of the fact that this is take three in his quest to fill the post.
"Now, I'm sure it's not lost on anyone that we've tried this a couple of times, but I'm a big believer in keeping at something until you get it right," said Obama at today's announcement.
The President's first choice for Commerce Secretary, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, bowed out on January 5, citing the distraction of a federal investigation into ties to a company that has done business with his state. Democratic officials told CNN the investigation involves a California company that won municipal bond business in New Mexico after contributing money to various Richardson causes.
Obama's second pick, Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, cited "irresolvable conflicts" with the administration over the economic recovery bill when he withdrew his name from consideration on February 12.
Now the president’s counting on the wisdom of another old proverb: “Third cabinet pick’s the charm.”
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama's speech on Iraq will take place at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina on Friday, according to a senior Administration official.
(CNN) - A bank that received $1.6 billion dollars of the government's bailout money sponsored what reports are calling a lavish series of events in Los Angeles, California, last weekend.
Northern Trust, based in Chicago, Illinois, spent an undisclosed amount of money sponsoring a Professional Golf Association tournament and associated client events, including concerts, dinners and parties, according to celebrity Web site TMZ.com.
The bank spent millions of dollars on the event, which included - on top of the sponsorship costs of the Northern Trust Open tournament - concerts by Sheryl Crow and Earth Wind & Fire, a private party at music venue House of Blues and gift bags from Tiffany & Co., the Web site said.
According to TMZ.com's report, employees and clients attending the tournament dined on seared salmon and petite Angus filet and stayed at some of Los Angeles' most elegant and expensive hotels.
Doug Holt, senior vice president of communication for Northern Trust, confirmed to CNN that his bank sponsored the tournament and its events but, he said, not at taxpayer expense.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama will announce Wednesday morning that former Washington Gov. Gary Locke is his nominee for commerce secretary, two senior administration officials told CNN.
Locke, 57, was the country's first Chinese-American governor, elected to lead Washington in 1996 and re-elected in 2000.
Prior to becoming governor, he served five terms in the Washington state House of Representatives and one term as King County executive. He was chairman of the House Appropriations Committee from 1989 to 1994.
A lawyer, Locke is currently in private practice with Davis Wright Tremaine in the national firm's Seattle, Washington, office.
Locke would be Obama's third choice to be commerce secretary. His most recent pick, Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, cited "irresolvable conflicts" with the administration over the economic recovery bill when he withdrew his name from consideration on February 12.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson bowed out on January 5, citing the distraction of a federal investigation into ties to a company that has done business with his state. Democratic officials told CNN the investigation involves a California company that won municipal bond business in New Mexico after contributing money to various Richardson causes.
Richardson denies any wrongdoing.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A new national poll indicates that two-thirds of those who watched President Obama's address to a joint session of Congress reacted favorably to his speech.
Sixty-eight percent of speech-watchers questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey Tuesday night had a very positive reaction to the president's address, with 24 percent suggesting they had a somewhat positive response and 8 percent indicating they had a negative reaction.
Since the president is a Democrat, the audience watching his speech is a bit out of line with the nation's breakdown by party. The speech audience questioned in the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll is about 8 to 10 points more Democratic than the general public.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama addressed Congress shortly after 9 p.m. Tuesday, but a casual viewer might have believed it was actually morning in America.
Watch: Obama lays out agenda
"Morning in America" was the theme of Ronald Reagan's 1984 re-election campaign, and it was front and center in Obama's most critical event since Inauguration Day.
The president who has pledged to reverse much of Reagan's economic revolution took a page from the 40th president's playbook in his 52-minute speech, striking a defiantly optimistic tone that belied the nation's sour mood and rebutted critics who have accused him of intentionally talking down the economy for short-term political gain.
"Though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before," Obama declared to a thunderous round of applause from a packed House chamber.
Delivered against a backdrop of dismal economic news and with polls showing overwhelming majorities of Americans believing the country is on the wrong track, Obama's first speech to Congress amounted to a political tour de force. He proposed what many claim is a complete overhaul of the country's economic foundation while ripping his conservative predecessors for transferring "wealth to the wealthy" and gutting regulations "for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market."
And he did it while employing some of Reagan's favorite rhetorical tools. Obama stuck to a fairly short list of priorities while invoking traditional American values of responsibility, hard work and thrift to pound home a back-to-basics message.
(CNN) - Tapped by the Republican party to deliver the GOP's response to President Barack Obama's congressional address Tuesday night, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal took on the massive stimulus package and big government - and pledged that his party would regain the nation's trust.
Watch: Jindal responds to Obama
"In the end, it comes down to an honest and fundamental disagreement about the proper role of government," Jindal said. "We oppose the national Democratic view that says the way to strengthen our country is to increase dependence on government. We believe the way to strengthen our country is to restrain spending in Washington, to empower individuals and small businesses to grow our economy and create jobs.
"In recent years, these distinctions in philosophy became less clear - our party got away from its principles. Tonight, on behalf of our leaders in Congress and my fellow Republican governors, I say this: Our party is determined to regain your trust," Jindal said.