Thursday, February 26, 2009

Senator Robert Byrd (!?) challenges centralization of power in the Exeuctive Branch...

From Politico via h/t Real World Libertarian:

In a letter to Obama on Wednesday, Byrd complained about Obama’s decision to create White House offices on health reform, urban affairs policy, and energy and climate change. 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.” 

While it's rare for Byrd to criticize a president in his own party, Byrd is a stern constitutional scholar who has always stood up for the legislative branch in its role in checking the power of the White House. Byrd no longer holds the powerful Appropriations chairmanship, so his criticism does not carry as much weight these days. Byrd repeatedly clashed with the Bush administration over executive power, and it appears that he's not limiting his criticism to Republican administrations.

Byrd also wants Obama to limit claims of executive privilege while also ensuring that the White House czars don’t have authority over Cabinet officers confirmed by the Senate. …. 

“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.” ……

What happens in times of crisis (thank you, Rahm Emmanuel) is not so much that government assumes new powers, because that's pretty much what government does.

What happens is that times of crisis are used as explanations why pragmatism should replace principle because we can suddenly no longer afford the deliberative democratic process.

Never thought I'd be complimenting Senator Byrd (and I'm sure some commenter will tell me I should remember he's a former Klansman, whines a lot, and has been a long-term advocate for increasing government power, as if I didn't know), but when anybody gets it right, they deserve the credit.


Shirley Vandever said...

Ace of Spades HQ had this story posted yesterday. The title of the post was:

Noted KKK Kleagle Pans Black President for Acting Unconstitutionally, Uppity


City Upon The Hill said...

I never thought I'd say this but, way to go Byrd.

Waldo said...

Given how much of the executive branch he has removed to the State of Byrd,, fuck him. He's a half-senile old man who take sit as a personal offense if presidents don't kneel before him and kiss his old Klan ring before doing anything.

You nailed Thurmond for staying too long? Same medicine to Byrd.

Delaware Watch said...

"What happens is that times of crisis are used as explanations why pragmatism should replace principle because we can suddenly no longer afford the deliberative democratic process."

It's my impression that "principle" very often comes in the singular for you; rarely the plural. It seems that you have one principle in mind and that you rarely recognize other, especially competitive, principles. Am I wrong? If not, what are the principleS you think are relevant?

Steve Newton said...

To be brutally honest, you have read far too much into my literary and grammatical penchant for making sure that items in a sentence like that do not mix singular and plurals. Seriously. I actually edited out the "s" on principle because I didn't like the way it read.

That said, I have at least one and one-half principles...

This one in particular is a constitutional principle: separation of powers.

I have objected in the past to the existence of a drug czar and an intelligence czar, as well as the idea of an automotive industry czar.

These informal arrangements, with no constitutional accountability such as the heads of departments have, strike me as unwise ... on general principle(s).

Why isn't being Secretary of HHS automatically being the "Health Care Czar" without establishing a duplicative office and staff organization?

Upton said...

I feel like the principle that gets omitted from both sides of any debate is process:

Czar's are an expansion of executive power.

Separation of Powers, as a doctrine, doesn't prohibit this, it encourages the other branches to strike back. This is the process.

Politics is defined by the success each branch has in checking the other, and - like I said in my blog - I think it's good to see that even with a single party in control, challenges look like they will surface against too much centralization by Obama.