Last week President Obama appointed yet another “czar” with massive government power, answering only to him. Even before this latest appointment, the top-ranking Democrat in the Senate wrote President Obama a letter saying that these czars are unconstitutional. President Obama’s “czar strategy” is an unprecedented power grab centralizing authority in the White House, outside congressional oversight and in violation of the Constitution.
As of last week, Czar Kenneth Feinberg has the authority to set the pay scale for executives at any company receiving government money (and how many aren’t, these days?). Czar Feinberg has the power to say that someone’s pay is excessive, and to make companies cut that pay until the czar is pleased.
Congress did not give Czar Feinberg this authority. For that matter, Congress has not authorized any of the czars that President Barack Obama has created. Over the past thirty years presidents have each had one or two czars for various issues, and once the number went as high as five. But now, by some counts President Obama has created sixteen czars, and there may be more on the way. Each of these has enormous government power, and answers only to the president.
Ever since this practice of appointing czars began years ago, it has always been considered possible that they are all unconstitutional. But it never built to a critical mass to elicit a court fight. These czars were few and far between, and rarely did anything that seriously ruffled any feathers. But President Obama has taken this to an unprecedented level, to the point where these appointments are dangerous to our constitutional regime.
This has become too much for the longest-serving senator in U.S. history to stomach. Democratic Senator Robert Byrd is the president pro tempore of the U.S. Senate. Even though Senate rules vest most powers in the Senate majority leader, the president pro tempore is a constitutional officer, and third in line to the U.S. presidency (after the vice president and the Speaker of the House). This office is held by a Democrat, who has been serving in the Senate since before Barack Obama was even born.