Sen. Byrd questions Obama's use of policy 'czars'
By NOELLE STRAUB,
Published: February 25, 2009
Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), who for decades has battled White House power and championed congressional clout, is questioning President Obama's appointment of "czars" to oversee key policy areas, including energy and climate.
"The rapid and easy accumulation of power by White House staff can threaten the Constitutional system of checks and balances," Byrd wrote in a letter to Obama. "At the worst, White House staff have taken direction and control of programmatic areas that are the statutory responsibility of Senate-confirmed officials."
Byrd specifically cited the creation of a new White House Office of Energy and Climate Change, which is headed by Carol Browner. He also noted new offices for health reform and urban affairs policy and the appointment of White House staff to coordinate on technology and management performance policies.
He also listed numerous examples from the administrations of Presidents Richard Nixon and George W. Bush of officials who directed policy as White House assistants.
"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.
Byrd, who carries a copy of the Constitution with him and often cites it in floor speeches, said the czars are not accountable to Congress or to Cabinet officials and rarely testify before congressional committees. He said they often "shield the information and decision-making process behind the assertion of executive privilege"
and too often "have been allowed to inhibit openness and transparency, and reduce accountability."
Sen. Byrd questions Obama's use of policy 'czars' - NYTimes.com