In the war on the czars, Glenn Beck and the GOP are picking up reinforcements from an unlikely source: the Democratic Party.
The Fox News host and leading Republican lawmakers have been hammering President Barack Obama for weeks over a proliferation of policy “czars” — presidential appointees who don’t have to be confirmed by the Senate and aren’t easily held to account by Senate oversight committees.
Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold
of Wisconsin joined the anti-czar chorus Wednesday, asking Obama to detail the roles and responsibilities of all of the czars in his administration and to explain why he believes the use of czars is consistent with the Senate’s constitutional power to offer advice and consent on top-level executive branch officials.
“To the extent that this undercuts that role and people are put in the place of Cabinet people and really are the key authorities and you can’t question them, that’s something worth talking about,” Feingold said. “I think it’s a fair point.”
Feingold says he doesn’t know if there are any constitutional violations, but he suggested that he may hold an oversight hearing on the matter.
Although the czar charge has come mostly from the right, Feingold isn’t the only Democrat to voice concerns about the issue.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein
said in an interview Wednesday that there needs to be better Senate oversight, although she was quick to add that some czar critics have incorrectly labeled a number of Senate-confirmed administration officials as White House czars.
“If you look over certain people [who] have real titles and real authority, I don’t think it’s quite fair to call, for example, David Hayes at the Department of Interior a czar,” the California Democrat said. “He’s the deputy secretary of the Department of Interior, and he’s got real authority.”
Feinstein said she thinks it’s a “problem” when the White House appoints someone to a czar position that is not clearly defined. “I don’t know what a car czar does, for example,” she said.
Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) —
a fierce defender of congressional authority — argued in a letter last February that the czars may upset checks and balances in the federal government.
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