Obama Has Too Many Czars, Critics Complain

Sen. Byrd says Obama's 'super aide' craze is a power grab

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 5, 2009 10:05 AM CST

(Newser) – Barack Obama loves czars. He’s got an energy czar, an urban affairs czar, an economic czar, and, most recently, a health reform czar, making him the most czar-happy president ever, scholars say. But lawmakers worry they’re losing ground in the "super aide" craze, the LA Times reports. Sen. Robert Byrd sent a cautionary letter to Obama last week telling him that his czars are assuming duties that ought to belong to officials confirmed by Congress.

The Obama administration says it needs czars, high-powered advisers who work across departments, to improve efficiency. But Byrd complains that past czars have avoided congressional testimony, hiding behind executive privilege. “The rapid and easy accumulation of power by White House staff can threaten the constitutional system,” he wrote. Scholars say that fear is valid, and one noted a practical concern: “There are so many czars in this White House, they'll be constantly bumping in to each other.”

Robert Byrd waves as he arrives on Capitol Hill Thursday, Feb. 26, 2009. Byrd thinks Obama has too many czars.
Robert Byrd waves as he arrives on Capitol Hill Thursday, Feb. 26, 2009. Byrd thinks Obama has too many czars.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
In this Dec. 15, 2008 file photo, then-President-elect Barack Obama listens as Carol Browner his newly designated White House energy czar speaks at a news conference in Chicago.
In this Dec. 15, 2008 file photo, then-President-elect Barack Obama listens as Carol Browner his newly designated White House energy czar speaks at a news conference in Chicago.   (AP Photo, File)
President Barack Obama introduces Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, left, as his nominee for Health and Human Services Secretary. At right is Nancy-Ann DeParle, appointed to serve as Health Reform czar.
President Barack Obama introduces Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, left, as his nominee for Health and Human Services Secretary. At right is Nancy-Ann DeParle, appointed to serve as Health Reform czar.   (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Paul Volcker, Chair of the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board, speaks to colleagues during a lunch address at Columbia University, Feb. 20, 2009, in New York.
Paul Volcker, Chair of the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board, speaks to colleagues during a lunch address at Columbia University, Feb. 20, 2009, in New York.   (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
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