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Feb 27, 2009

Byrd accuses Obama of power grab.

One of the people I would have never seen myself supporting any statement from is Senator Robert Byrd a Democrat from West Virginia. Byrd has been in the past a leader in the KKK, then was elected to Congress and later to the Senate as a Dixiecrat. While I understand that his views have changed somewhat since the time he personally filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for 14 hours, in an attempt by the Democrats to block it in the Senate, there is nothing I can find to like about him.

There is a need to give credit where credit is due however and he seems to deserve some on this occasion. According to Politico he has written to Obama criticizing the appointment of White House “czars” to oversee federal policy, saying these executive positions amount to a power grab by the executive branch.

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.” ……

While Byrd may had support from his colleagues in his clashes with Bush, it is doubtful whether he will find much on this occasion, but good luck to him.


  1. I'm guessing one of Byrd's aides thought of that. I think Byrd is senile. I wish someone saner would pick up on it.

  2. I think you are right on that Patrick. I watched part of a video clip of him 'interrogating' General Petraus and had to switch it off as it was embarrassing to watch him in his condition. His hands were shaking so badly he could barely hold his papers and was struggling to keep his head up.

    That said, I am glad someone brought this up.