President Insists on Right to Appoint White House ‘Czars’

By April 18, 2011Regulations

Below we noted the provision in the 2011 spending bill that prohibited funding for White House positions known in political parlance as “Czars,” specifically: Director, White House Office of Health Reform; Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change; Senior Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury assigned to the Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry and Senior Counselor for Manufacturing Policy; the White House Director of Urban Affairs.

In signing H.R. 1473, the President issued a signing statement:

Section 2262 of the Act would prohibit the use of funds for several positions that involve providing advice directly to the President.  The President has well-established authority to supervise and oversee the executive branch, and to obtain advice in furtherance of this supervisory authority.  The President also has the prerogative to obtain advice that will assist him in carrying out his constitutional responsibilities, and do so not only from executive branch officials and employees outside the White House, but also from advisers within it.

Legislative efforts that significantly impede the President’s ability to exercise his supervisory and coordinating authorities or to obtain the views of the appropriate senior advisers violate the separation of powers by undermining the President’s ability to exercise his constitutional responsibilities and take care that the laws be faithfully executed.  Therefore, the executive branch will construe section 2262 not to abrogate these Presidential prerogatives.

If we remember our U.S. Constitution correctly, it’s Congress that appropriates or, as the case is here, chooses not to appropriate.

The President’s signing statement has elicited a slew of criticism from commentators from across the political spectrum. Glenn Greenwald, a left-leaning legal analyst at Salon, notes explicit statements that Obama made at a 2008 campaign speech disavowing signing statements:

[The] vow he made in that campaign speech was unambiguous: he said the only two options a President has when faced with a bill is to sign or veto it, and that “we’re not going to use signing statements as a way of doing an end run around Congress.” Regardless of one’s views on signing statements or the “czar” de-funding law, then, there is simply no question that Obama is now asserting exactly the power that, when demagoguing this issue during the campaign, he insisted was illegitimate and he would not exercise. What kind of person would justify that?

Ron Bloom, former senior counselor for manufacturing, has since moved on to the Council of Economic Advisers, where he does something or another. President Obama praised Bloom in remarks April 6 at Gamesa, a wind turbine manufacturer in Pennsylvania:

[There’s] a guy right here, this guy, I’m going to embarrass him. His name is Ron Bloom. Ron is actually the guy who helped us save the auto industry. He helped to design our program to make sure that G.M. and Chrysler did not get liquidated and did not go under. And by the way, I don’t know if you guys heard, a couple weeks back G.M. said it was now going to hire back every single worker that had been laid off. Every single worker that had been laid off. (Applause.)

So Ron is now working to develop manufacturing strategies for every industry around the country, and he’s doing great work. And I’m sure he’s going to be talking to the folks here at Gamesa and others in terms of finding ways that we can increase manufacturing here in the United States all across the country.

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