House Republicans have introduced three resolutions aimed at forcing the president to fully disclose how his "czars" were vetted and to explain why they shouldn't be subjected a full Senate confirmation process.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Lawmakers are calling on the Obama White House to offer clarification on the role of some of its top policy makers, the so-called "czars."
House Republicans have introduced three resolutions aimed at forcing the president to fully disclose how the advisers were vetted and to explain why they shouldn't be subjected a full Senate confirmation process.
"Are these czars advisors or are they policy makers?" Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas asked. Poe said the distinction is important and ultimately mandates whether or not the lack of a Senate confirmation amounts to a violation of the U.S. Constitution.
A number of Republicans say their constituents are voicing concerns about possible unchecked power.
"They see these czar positions being handed out as candy suckers and they wonder what kind of accountability and transparency comes with these czars," Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, said Wednesday.
But the Obama administration is firing back. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters on Wednesday the "czar" positions have existed for years.
"They're positions in the administration, they're positions in the previous administration," Gibbs said. "I think these are positions that date back at least to, you know, many, many administrations, where there may be policy coordination between many different departments in order to make governmental responses more efficient."
Gibbs went on to cite two "czar" positions he said were pushed by Republican Sens. Robert Bennett of Utah and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the Y2K czar and a manufacturing czar.
Shortly after Gibbs finished speaking to reporters, White House communications director Anita Dunn wrote a blog post on the White House Web site stating there is no such thing as the title of "czar" in the Obama administration.
"Many of the officials cited by conservative commentators have been confirmed by the Senate. Many hold policy jobs that have existed in previous Administrations," Dunn wrote. " And some hold jobs that involved coordinating the work of agencies on President Obama's key policy priorities: health insurance reform, energy and green jobs, and building a new foundation for long-lasting economic growth."
But neither Gibbs nor Dunn persuaded many on Capitol Hill, with Bennett and Alexander firing off statements.
"Unlike President Obama's creation of czars, the Y2K czar was a temporary position for a temporary situation with date certain event," Bennett's spokeswoman said.
"Bennett's concern with the Obama administration's czars is that we have no information on their specific duties and whether or not their authority is limited to ensure that the czars do not undermine current cabinet positions within the executive office," she said. "Nice try, Mr. Gibbs."
Alexander told FOX News that the White House had clearly not listened or read any comments of his comments about czars.
"The White House staff should review my full remarks before launching an attack," he said. "I made it clear that there have always been a few czars but nothing like the 18 new czars appointed in this administration. Eighteen of the administration's 32 czars hold new positions that did not exist in previous administration and were not authorized by law."
"These czars are unconfirmed by the Senate, unavailable for questioning, and unaccountable to the American people through their elected representatives," he added. "They're the most visible symbol of too many Washington takeovers."
Earlier this week, Reps. Darrell Issa and Lamar Smith sent a letter directly to White House Counsel Gregory Craig, outlining "grave concern" and saying of the czars, "a pattern of behavior and associations maintained by some individuals runs contrary to the very core of our democracy."
The letter specifically mentioned former "green jobs czar" Van Jones, noting that he was a "self-described communist."
On Wednesday, Issa equated the czars to a "shadow cabinet" and says it's operating without the legitimacy and oversight necessary to any cabinet-level position.
Republicans aren't the only ones voicing concerns. Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin told the president he also heard concerns about the czars firsthand on several occasions during town hall meetings in his home state.
Feingold urged the president in a letter dated September 15 to "disclose as much information as you can about these policy advisors and 'czars.'"
Issa went much further, detailing a lengthy list of what he expects the White House to turn over, and set the deadline for September 29th.