Contact: Chris Crawford (202) 225-5831
KINGSTON OP/ED: Who czar they?
President Obama’s czars leave more questions than answers
Washington, Jul 27, 2009 -
By Congressman Jack Kingston, First District of Georgia
In its day, czarist Russia had just 18 czars in 300 years. In just seven months, President Obama has nearly doubled that number. At this rate, we’ll have 272 czars by 2012.
Who are these people and why are they necessary? Why do we need an Energy Czar and a Secretary of Energy? Why do we need a TARP Czar and a Secretary of Treasury? Why was a 31 year old with no background in the auto industry and who drives a foreign car appointed as the Auto Recovery Czar? What qualifies a college professor to set executive salaries?
We don’t know the answers to these questions because unlike cabinet secretaries, judges, and hundreds of other presidential appointments, these czars have bypassed Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution which mandates the advice and consent of the Senate when the President appoints principle officers.
Since these czars are the President’s point persons – many only reporting directly to him – on important issues, coming before the Senate for confirmation hearings would be important. Not only could they answer the above questions but the process could avoid the embarrassment caused by the Car Czar who had to resign because of a pension fund scandal.
Transparency isn’t the only issue. In these times of tight budgets, we need to know what these new offices are going to cost us. Most czars make $172,000. Each has an office, a staff, transportation and travel budgets. Who’s watching this?
Was anyone watching when the Stimulus Accountability Czar spent $18 million setting up a web page? He certainly never asked Congress for the money. Each year every cabinet secretary must sit before several House and Senate Committees to ask for and justify his or her budget. But not these czars – not one has come before Congress.
It’s time to rein this in. I believe the President has the right to pick his own team and push his own agenda, but I also believe in the balance of power. The legislative branch must exercise its constitutional authority to vet these czars and review their budget. If the President can make the case, let him have all the czars he wants. But let’s have transparency, accountability and balance.
Congressman Jack Kingston has represented Georgia’s First District since 1992. Earlier this year, he introduced H.R. 3226, the Czar Accountability and Reform Act, which would withhold funding from any czar until they have been confirmed by the Senate. For more information, visit http://kingston.house.gov/czar.