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A Lot Of Czars

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Location: Washington, DC

A LOT OF CZARS

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. CARTER. Thank you, Madam Speaker. I want to thank you for recognizing me today. I have some stuff I think is kind of interesting to talk about.

Let's start with recently, while listening to the radio, I heard an announcement that President Obama was appointing a gentleman to be named the compensation czar, and that kind of threw me. Being an old criminal law trial judge, I remember the drug czars of the past. I remember I think a couple of Homeland Security czars. But I never had heard of a compensation czar.

So I started to look into it, and I always thought it was kind of peculiar for a democratic country to even use the term ``czar.'' But others adopted it ahead of time, so I have no criticism of using the term ``czar,'' though I think if you look up ``czar'' in the dictionary, you will find out the most popular version is a form of the Russian totally autocratic emperors of the old Imperial Russia. To me, I think it sounds a little funny for us to be comparing ourselves with that failed system. But, you know, I can't criticize it too much, because we have had multiple folks that have had the name ``czar.''

Exactly what are these czars that we create in this country? Well, the best I have been able to determine, these are people who are hired members of the executive branch of the government, but they are not like Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare or Secretary of Labor. But they are given sort of absolute authority in their field to give direction to the government and to advise the President as his personal kind of alter-Cabinet, if you will.

Now, the first thing that comes to mind when you wonder about that is, you say now, wait a minute, all these secretaries that become members of the Cabinet, they have to be confirmed by the Senate. Constitutionally, it is required that they be confirmed by the Senate.

We have these confirmation battles in every administration, and actually some issues have come up this time which caused people to withdraw their names before the issue of whether or not they be confirmed, for reasons like they didn't pay their taxes or some other reason that they felt they didn't want to go through that kind of an onerous process of getting to be the Secretary of Homeland Security or the Secretary of State, Secretary of Commerce or whatever Secretary it may be, which for a long time has been the historical heads of departments of the executive branch of the Federal Government. But now we have these new guys that are going to be czars.

Now, it wasn't so hard to figure out when you said, well, you have got an Attorney General who is one of the Cabinet members, and he is confirmed by the Senate, just like the Constitution requires, and to have somebody who is totally focusing on the drug fight that we have. Maybe that might not be such a bad idea. So that is kind of the first concept of czar that I can recall, and I think probably at some time Ronald Reagan may have used that term. So, you can understand that.

But when you hear ``czar,'' you think Russian. When you think of Russian czars, you think of the Romanov dynasty, which is the dynasty that was ultimately overthrown by the communist revolution. From its inception and for 300 years, the Romanov rule had 18 czars, and two or three of them didn't last very long, and in 146 days the Obama administration has 22 czars.

Now, these folks have lots of titles, these 22 czars, but if ``czar'' means what czar has sort of historically meant, it is designed to give them sort of an absolute in-charge position on a certain subject matter. And, remember, these folks are not ones who would have to be confirmed, the way I understand it, in order to hold a position. These are just hired folks that the President, through his presumed authority, gives them this power to do this. So, the Russians took 300 years and we took 146 days to create this ``czardom,'' if you will.

Now, let's see who these folks are. The best I can tell, this is a pretty accurate list of our czars that have been created by the Obama administration.

We start off with the border czar, Alan Bersin, and then the energy czar, Carol Browner. I believe she was part of the EPA last time, maybe under Carter or Clinton, I'm not sure. Probably Clinton. I don't know all about all these people.

The urban czar is Adolfo Carrion. The infotech czar is Vivek Kundra. The faith-based czar is Joshua DuBois, at least it has been reported he is an atheist, but that is his faith, I suppose. Health reform czar, Nancy-Ann DeParle, I guess it is. TARP czar, we have all heard about the TARP, Herb Allison is the TARP czar. The stimulus accountability czar is Earl Devaney. The nonproliferation czar, Gary Samore. I may be mispronouncing these folks' names. Let me say right off, if I mispronounce anybody's name, it is because I am from Texas, and I just apologize for that.

The terrorist czar is John Brennan. The regulatory czar, there is an interesting one, Cass Sunstein. The drug czar, we have seen that one before. The drug czar is Gil Kerlikowske, it looks like. The Guantanamo closure czar, which is on the front page of all the papers, is Daniel Fried. The AF-PAK czar is Richard Holbrooke. The Mideast peace czar, George Mitchell. We are very familiar with him, former Senator Mitchell.

The Persian Gulf-Southwest Asia czar, Dennis Ross. The Sudan czar, J. Scott Gration. The climate czar, Todd Stern. The car czar, Steve Rattner. He has been all over the place. The economic czar, Paul Volcker, who is very famous. The executive pay czar, that is one of my favorites right there. The executive pay czar is Kenneth Feinberg. And then the cybersecurity czar, position to be announced, but they are going to have one.

Now, right off I wondered about the cybersecurity czar, because we have got an infotech czar up here, which is sort of both first cousins anyway, and I don't know whether they will be working together or what, but they are going to have absolute power in their field, whatever that means. I think this is something we ought to be curious about. That is so many czars.

You know what is interesting? The Russians gave nicknames to some of their czars based on their behavior. I wonder who is going to adopt some of the nicknames for some of the czars? I don't think anyone would like to be called Alan the Terrible. We had an Ivan the Terrible in the Russian Romanov dynasty. I am sure they would all like to be Peter the Great or Catherine the Great, have ``the Great'' after their name.

But I guess we can make up names for them. But the question is, why? I think it's a question that the administration ought to have to answer.

You know, I'm not the only one asking these questions. A statement from Senator Robert Byrd said: ``The rapid and easy accumulation of power by White House staff can threaten the constitutional system of checks and balances. At the worst, White House staff has taken direction and control of programmatic areas that are the statutory responsibility of Senate-confirmed officials.''

And he's raising the same issue that I was raising just a few minutes ago, and that is, these people don't go through the confirmation process. There's no Senators looking and seeing what kind of reputation these people have, what they've done in the past, where their area of expertise is, whether or not this is the most qualified person, whether this is the person who would meet the constitutional requirements of serving our Nation. I know these are hired by the President. It's like there's this alternate universe that we're creating. We've got the Cabinet. I guess you leave the Cabinet and you go over to the czardoms and you meet with them, or maybe they all get in one room and battle it out. I don't know how it works. We'll see.

But this is sizably more czars than we've ever had. In fact, taking a look at President Ronald Reagan, he had one czar. President George Herbert Walker Bush had one czar. President Bill Clinton had three czars. President George W. Bush had four czars. So we've gone 1, 1, 3, 4, 22.

If these czars are set up to target historically needed help for people in this country, I think it's done with a good heart. But I really think we should be, we as the American people, should start asking why. Why should you hire somebody, for instance, to be the border czar? Now, Allan may be a really nice guy and he may be smart as a whip.

We also have Ms. Napolitano, who is the head of Homeland Security, and it is her statutory responsibility to be in charge of defending the borders of this country. And, in fact, it's the constitutional responsibility of every Member of this House to defend our borders. But it's certainly her statutory responsibility to defend our Nation.

We have an Energy Department; and the Secretary of Energy, I think, the best I can figure out, is supposed to be responsible for the Energy Department. Now, I wonder why we have to have this energy czar.

Urban czar. Well, we've got a Department of Urban Development that's, you know, Housing and Urban Development, HUD. That's been around for an awful long time. That is a Cabinet post. So why all of a sudden do we need an urban czar? We never had one before.

Infotech czar. I don't know where that would fall in the purview of the established secretariats by the Constitution or by statute, but somewhere.

Faith-based czar, I can--we've dealt with the head of a faith-based initiative in the Bush White House that came under a lot of criticism from the now-majority; but they've created one, and at least it is reported, put an atheist in charge of that, which, seems to me seems rather strange.

The health reform czar should be active right now, because, as I understand it, the President spent his day today trying to convince people in various places that we needed this massive health reform that he's seeking to put up. And he wants to actually create, put the government in competition with private industry on health care, I would say, leading to the kind of health care, ultimately, maybe through the back door, but ultimately, I think there's no doubt, and most experts would say, the recommendations that they're making, that they're pushing forward between now and probably the 4th of July, are to set in motion the possibility of a single-pay health care system in the United States run by the government. And when we have that, we will see the quality of our health care plummet, and we will see people like me, people in Washington, making decisions as to what certain people are supposed to do for health care, and rationing that health care.

Now, if you ask our good friends and neighbors to the north in Canada, you say, we hear you've got the greatest health care system in the world. They said, it is good; it's real good as long as you're well. But if you get sick, you've got to get on a waiting list to get treated.

And, in fact, we have a greater cure rate for breast cancer in this country by about 30 points, percentage points, than they do in Canada because they wait too long to take action on the breast cancer issue. Same thing goes for prostate cancer for men. These are things we ought to be thinking about.
We have somewhere in the 90 percentile success rate if we catch breast cancer early and aggressively pursue it. They're in the early 60s, like, 61, 63 percent. This is something that we ought to be concerned about.

If you get an orthopedic problem in Canada, say, a bad knee that you need to get fixed, you could wait 5 years before you get in to see the orthopedic surgeon, where, in the United States, you could probably see him day after tomorrow, and you could probably get surgery done next Monday. So we have to think about those things.

But we've got a health reform czar, and I'm sure she's going to tell us how it's going to work.

TARP czar, now that's particular and peculiar to what we're doing right now, and that's the TARP stuff. And there may be some understanding as to where that is. But, you know, we were told by two Secretaries of the Treasury that they were going to oversee this and they were going to make sure nothing bad happened. Okay. Now that's what they told us. We heard one under George Bush, and we now hear one under Barack Obama. And both these guys have told us that they're going to be looking out for our money over here. But we've got Mr. TARP czar is doing that.

And the stimulus accountability czar. Accountable to who? And what does that mean? But I'll tell you, there's no doubt about it now. This is true. The American people are sure worried about how this money's being spent and where it's going, and is there any waste, fraud and abuse involved in it as it comes out, because when you start throwing around billions and billions and billions of dollars until you reach trillions of dollars, it doesn't take a rocket scientist back home to figure out that much money is just a target for somebody to abuse the system. So maybe that's a good thing.

Nonproliferation czar. I assume that's nuclear proliferation. That's what you always hear connected to the proliferation word. But the question is, that's sort of new.

Terrorism czar. You know, when 9/11 happened, and this was before I came to Congress, when 9/11 happened, the Members of Congress here, in their combined wisdom, in a very, very, bipartisan effort, which everybody wondered about bipartisanism, in a very bipartisan effort, created the Department of Homeland Security. And it wasn't just for borders. It was for all issues to protect the homeland of America. And they became the entity where we gathered experts on terrorism.

Of course, all of our military services intelligence divisions have always had information about terrorism, because that's part of their job. They know who has to

clean up the mess after the mess is created. And so our military certainly has that information too.

But we created, I would argue, one of the largest, outside of the Defense Department, Departments in the entire United States, and it was created because of terrorism, but now we've got a terrorism czar.

The drug czar we've had, I'm pretty sure, in every administration for the last four administrations. And I know how that works, and I understand how that works. Now, whether or not we--drug czars have had the absolutism that the word ``czar'' seems to indicate, I don't know, and whether these folks are going to have that kind of absolute authority is anybody's guess.

Guantanamo closure czar. At least we know this guy is going to be out of work by the end of next year, that is, if the administration keeps their pledge. Now we've been told, absolutely, that by this time next year, Guantanamo will be closed. And so this guy's got a short--he's on a short leash.

The AFPAC czar, I don't even know what that does.

Middle East peace czar, well, you could just also call him an ambassador, a credentialed ambassador or whatever they call those people that go out and negotiate peace. And George Mitchell's done more than his share in his lifetime, and he's very competent. I'm not going into the competence of any of these people.

As far as I know, all these czars could be, ultimately, Allan the Great, Carol the Great, Adolfo the Great, Gary the Great, Jay Scott the Great. I mean, just like Peter the Great. We don't know how great these guys are going to be; but they could be one of those. And let's hope none of them end up being Ivan the Terrible, because that would be terrible.

Persian Gulf czar. Sudan czar. Now, we have an ambassador to Sudan, I think, and we have diplomats that work with Sudan. We have a Secretary of State who has an office that Sudan falls under, and I'm sure she has got some of the best experts on Sudan anywhere in the country, just like she does on the Persian Gulf, just like she does on the Middle East. The Secretary of State has the best people we can hire, and some of these people have been working in this field forever.

And now we've got a Sudan czar. This means this is the absolute monarch of Sudan experts? And what does it mean? Or is it just an associate of the administration that needs a job? I don't know. I don't know what it does.

Climate czar. It's not climate change czar. It's not global warming czar because we've had to change those terms. We started with climate, started with global warming and it started getting colder, so that's kind of dropped, and now we're at climate change czar. This guy doesn't even get the word change. He's got to be the climate czar.

You know, we always blame the weatherman for the weather. But, hey, we've got a czar we can blame now. This guy could very quickly become, that could be Steve the Terrible. Very quickly. How would you like to be responsible for the climate of the United States? I mean, that's tough. That's a tough job.

The Car czar. Well, if this guy doesn't do his job, he's going to have a whole lot less to be czar over, because the Federal Government now runs the car business and at least two of the largest three firms in our country, so he sort of could be the government auto czar because the government's now in the automobile industry. Heaven help us.

The Economic czar, and I know we've got a half a dozen people that serve in Cabinet or sub-Cabinet positions that we refer to as economic specialists, including, we've got the Federal Reserve that gives us advice on economics, and we've got the Secretary of the Treasury that gives us advice on economics, we have a board that gives us advice on economics, and there's an economist behind every bush. Probably the only thing more in Washington that we've got than economists is lawyers. Heaven help us.

But we've got an economic czar, and he's one we've heard of, Paul Volcker. And I guess Paul's going to tell us how it works.

Now, this one is the one that got me wondering about this czarship, executive pay czar.

There are an awful lot of people asking: What does that mean? We know at a minimum what it means is that we're going to decide what some of the big firms that took bailout money are going to pay their top executives. It has been all over the papers and on all of the TV shows about the various, huge, gigantic amounts of money that some CEOs and CFOs and others get paid with bonuses in some of these large corporations. It's really beyond most of our ability to conceive of how much money these folks get. So this guy is going to limit that.

Then the question becomes: If he is going to be the czar--the absolute monarch--over executive pay and that executive pay is going to be from anybody who took government money, then does that mean anybody who got a tax break from the government could be kind of grandfathered into this deal? Does that mean for anybody who got a grant from the government and a big one--not the bailout money, not the TARP money or the other one, the stimulus money--that he's going to get to tell them what their pay is going to be? In fact, maybe the company that you work for has gotten some of this money. Is he going to be able to tell your company what you're going to get paid? Where does it stop?

So is this really a wage-fixing czar? Is that a better term for this than executive pay czar? I don't know.

Finally--and we haven't gotten the person's name yet--there's the cybersecurity czar. Then we've run out of space on the page. I guess the next thing we'll find out is that, instead of 22 czars, we may have 42 czars.

I tried to find out what these folks get paid, but I haven't been able to figure it out yet. Stay tuned. I'll try to come back to you and talk to you about what all of these czars are going to get paid. You know, if they're following in the Russian pattern, it's going to be pretty good because those czars lived in some pretty nice houses, and they did pretty well. So, in 300 years, the Romanovs had 18 czars. In 146 days, the Americans now have 22 czars.

I am very pleased to see that I'm not by myself today. I have a good friend. My good friend, colleague and classmate is here, Steve King from Iowa. STEVE is always ready to have some fun.

Steve, what do you think about all of this? I'll yield to you as much time as you wish to consume.

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Mr. CARTER. This bottom of the page, you're right. The one thing I find good about the climate czar is the poor old weatherman is going to get a break, because when the weatherman on Sunday night says it's going to be a beautiful day all day long and it rains, who do they blame? The poor old weatherman. Now they can blame the climate czar.

You know, these folks here, here on the majority side, they would like all the center of the universe to be Washington, D.C., and there you go. Now, everybody in the country will be blaming the climate czar for bad weather. At least we've got centralized blame.

I'm sure that there are some people sitting at home saying--and in this body saying, Why are you talking about this? I think there is something really critical that we need to interject into this, and I said it briefly, but it really takes us out of the realm of humor and into the realm of seriousness.

When you realize the Founding Fathers that created this country, they assigned the government with checks and balances, and this circumvents that system. This puts absolute authority in these people's hands at this category. And they have not gone through any Senate confirmation, which the executive branch, those people are supposed--all of our Secretaries and Under Secretaries have to be confirmed by the Senate. We've got a good friend in this body that's going to be--that has been nominated for Secretary of the Army, and I certainly hope he gets confirmed by the Senate, and I'm sure he will, but he has to go through that.

These people don't go through that. There is nobody overseeing this but the executive department, but the President of the United States. So there's no congressional oversight. There's no judicial oversight, both of which were created by our Founding Fathers. No. The only real person they answer to is the President of the United States. And they work for the President of the United States. He hired them. He chose them. He put them in this position. I'm sure he's paying them good money. But they don't do what our Founding Fathers envisioned our country to be doing. So what does it create? It creates an executive department that is garnering power in every area.

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As we sum this up here, Mr. King mentioned something that I think is important. He mentioned we needed a denationalization czar or an exit strategy czar, or maybe both. In this world of proliferation of czars, maybe we need both. But the reality is, in seriousness, when the President of the United States came into office, he told us there is a drop-dead deadline we're going to get out of Iraq. This is it. There is a drop-dead deadline we're going to close Guantanamo Bay, and this is it. So this time next year, we won't even need the Guantanamo closure czar because it will be closed. And very clearly, we are going to draw down our soldiers in the war in Iraq.

The President has shown leadership. Whether you agree or disagree with him is for other times. But he certainly has become one who says there should be a drop-dead date, an exit strategy. I think it is important that this Congress, when we look at this massive increase in the executive department and we say to ourselves, They are not answerable to us except through the appropriations process, we can cut off the money, but other than that, they're answerable to the President.

We had nothing to say about who got hired. We had nothing to say about what the duties were. This was a creation of the executive department, and that would be the President of the United States and his staff. They owe this Nation and some of these areas a time to get out.

They say they don't want us to run the automobile industry. Well, we need to be planning on getting out of the automobile industry. We can't stay in there. The country doesn't want a government-made car. Just ask them; they don't want one. So we can get rid of the car czar, the executive pay czar, a lot of these other czars, if we would just say, this is their mission, here's when we expect that mission to be accomplished, as we did to our soldiers, and this is when we expect it to be accomplished, and by that date you either accomplish it or you're getting out.

You know, I personally think the way we look at this massive $1.5 trillion worth of authorized spending, authorized by this House--mainly that side of the aisle--the way we look at that right now is we should be saying stimulus means rapid infusion into the economy. Anything that hasn't been rapidly infused this year we should halt. So if they haven't spent the $787 billion--or whatever that number is--like right now, at least some papers report only $25 billion of that money, or we'll say $40 billion of that money has been used so far. And if you study some of those projects, many of those projects are for getting money to people for things that will not have an effect on our economy for years--3, 5, 7 years down the road. That's not stimulus. If they haven't gotten the thing done this year, we ought to say, de-authorize it at that point in time. It hasn't worked; try something that works. That's where we ought to be. That's the way this Congress needs to start thinking because we are creating a power structure that is outside the normal power structure of the executive branch of the government. These are things for us to think about.

Madam Speaker, I thank you for your courtesy tonight.

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