Byrd criticizes role of White House czars

Feb. 25, 2009 at 8:38 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- Democratic U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd says the White House appointment of czars to oversee national policy amounts to a power grab by the president.

The West Virginia Democrat said in a letter Wednesday to President Barack Obama that he objects to his administration creating White House offices on health reform, urban affairs policy and energy and climate change, Politico reported.

Byrd said such positions "can threaten the constitutional system of checks and balances. At the worst, White House staff have taken direction and control of programmatic areas that are the statutory responsibility of Senate-confirmed officials."

The Washington publication noted that Byrd, a constitutional scholar, routinely clashed with the former President George W. Bush's administration over executive power.

Byrd also said he wants to be sure that White House czars don't have authority over Cabinet-level officials confirmed by the Senate, Politico said.

"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," Byrd wrote. "They rarely testify before congressional committees, and often shield the information and decision-making process behind the assertion of executive privilege. In too many instances, White House staff have been allowed to inhibit openness and transparency, and reduce accountability."

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