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Op-Ed: Protecting Our System Of Checks And Balances

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Location: Washington, DC

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Op-Ed: Protecting Our System Of Checks And Balances

On September 17, 1787, 39 delegates of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia signed their names to the United States Constitution. In doing so they laid the framework on which we have built our nation. The Constitution protects Americans' liberties by creating a limited government that is divided into three separate branches, each of which holds only those powers delegated to it. This “separation of powers” was designed to encourage each branch of government to serve as a watchdog over the powers of the other branches, so that no one branch abuses or acquires too much power.

One important check on the power of the president is the Constitutional requirement that the Senate consent to the appointment of high-ranking officials by the president. However, despite this requirement, President Obama has appointed nearly thirty individuals to “czar” positions within the Administration without going through the formal Senate confirmation process, which eliminates the ability of the American people to properly examine these individuals' backgrounds or public records. These czars include a Great Lakes Czar, an Urban Czar, a Regulatory Czar, a Copyright Czar and Van Jones, the infamous Green Jobs Czar who recently resigned after much controversy over his belief that the U.S. government was involved in the horrific terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

While it is not new for presidents to appoint these high level advisors, President Obama has taken this to an unprecedented level. Oftentimes these czars are given power over various policy areas which are duplicative of Senate-confirmed cabinet members who are already responsible for advising the President and setting the Administration's agenda. For example, why do we need an Energy Czar when we have a Secretary of Energy? Why do we need a Health Reform Czar when we have a Secretary of Health and Human Services? Why do we need a Terrorism Czar when we have a Secretary of Homeland Security and a Secretary of Defense? Not to mention, most of the czars are making over $170,000 per year and have an office, a staff, and transportation and travel budgets, all at taxpayer expense.

For these reasons, I am pleased to join with over eighty other Members of Congress in supporting the Czar Accountability and Reform Act. This important legislation eliminates funding for czars who hold senior policy-making positions that duplicate the functions that Senate-confirmed government officials already perform. This legislation will prohibit the president from circumventing the Senate approval process for high-ranking appointees. Additionally, as Vice Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, I will continue urging the Judiciary Committee to aggressively investigate these “czar” positions. These offices that are accountable to no one but the President yet they are making decisions on policies that affect most Americans.

I remain committed to protecting our U.S. Constitution and the system of government that it created, and so I will continue working to see that these czars are put through the constitutionally-mandated Senate confirmation process.


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