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Rise of the czars

geithnerleaningsummers.JPGA good point from Kevin Willis in comments:

Republicans complain about all the czars, but they are obligating Obama to appoint more czars than any president in history, because they filibuster all his actual appointments. Czars route around the filibustering of appointments, and nothing more.

To put this another way, the executive branch needs a certain amount of staff. Some of that staff simply has to be confirmed by the Senate. The secretary of the Treasury, for instance. But some of that staff is in a gray area: It would be good to have them confirmed by the Senate, but if that's too much of a pain in the neck, they can be named to positions -- either existing ones or newly concocted ones -- on the White House staff. Larry Summers is an example of this route.

If getting nominees through the Senate keeps getting harder, you'll see the Senate consulted on fewer and fewer of these hires. In that way, this obstruction masquerading as scrutiny will make the government less accountable, not more.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari

By Ezra Klein  |  February 5, 2010; 2:14 PM ET
Categories:  Government  
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Ezra, dont you think thats intentional? The whole plan of the current crop of the GOP, right now, seems to be a scorched earth attack, with the hope that their voters will keep tuning in to Fox News, and not notice that they are the ones causeing govrnment to fail. They refuse to confirm nominees, President Obama has to appoint "czars", they are shocked SHOCKED that there are czars in this establishment!

Posted by: elijah24 | February 5, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

I remember Republicans saying stuff like "shouldn't a President be able to say who comes to work for him?" I guess I have to agree. For better or worse.

Posted by: luko | February 5, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

When can Kevin Willis expect his $50,000 check?

Posted by: bgmma50 | February 5, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

The Washington Post's "Head Count" page identifies 515 Senate confirmed positions. 306 of them have been confirmed, 88 are awaiting confirmation and 121 have not yet been announced. Shelby notwithstanding, if Obama wants more nominees confirmed, maybe he should try appointing them. BTW, holds on nominees did not start with this administration.

Posted by: WoodbridgeVa1 | February 5, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

How many Czars did he appoint because the Senate was holding them up? Without this figure - the entire assumption is pure BS

Posted by: Holla26 | February 5, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

I think Shelby's holds aren't masquerading as anything other than the politically facilitated blackmail they are.

Posted by: Jaycal | February 5, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse

I already told him, $15 bucks a pop. I believe in competitive pricing.

And I'm not letting Lil Wayne take this opportunity away from me. The way he has so many times in the past.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | February 5, 2010 11:41 PM | Report abuse

"How many Czars did he appoint because the Senate was holding them up? Without this figure - the entire assumption is pure BS"

A good point. Yet, no matter how you slice it, there is a certain hypocrisy regarding the obstructionism of the Republicans when it comes to appointees (and Shelby's recent hold is only the most recent and egregious example) and the complaints about Obama's unapproved, unaccountable Czars.

I think the complaint about the number of Obama's Czars and the nature of those positions is a legitimate criticism, except Republicans are blocking legitimate appointees to positions that need to be filled for reasons that frankly stretch credulity. It makes them, at the least, quasi-hypocritical critics.

And, in the future, doing everything they can to avoid advise and consent is what presidents (Democrats and Republicans) will do when the opposition obstructs numerous appointees.

Regarding the number of appointees still awaiting confirmation, it's more than Bush had waiting at the same time in his presidency. Which were significantly more than Clinton had, and Bush Sr (if I recall) had about the same amount as Clinton waiting, and so on. Another way to express that is that Republicans are obstructing way more of Obama's appointees than Clinton's.

Of course, the Democrats held up more of Bush's appointees than Republicans had with Clinton (though never had the chutzpah to issue a blanket hold). And so on. This just seems like an escalating tactic that will eventually end with little or no advise and consent and a government run by administration Czars. I just think both parties, in this respect, should think about the tactics they're using. But I expect they won't.

Regarding the 121 positions that have not been announced, I imagine there is some delay in vetting for the advise, consent and obstruct the appointee will encounter. I don't expect the Obama administration wants all of their candidates to be blocked, nor do they want Tea Party activists. So how to get someone who will be confirmed, yet won't essentially be a Republican appointee?

I think that delay is also a result of the obstruction, though I expect it would actually be politically smarter to just appoint someone to all open positions and then let the Republicans put blanket holds on all appointees until NASA writes Shelby's name on the moon.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | February 5, 2010 11:56 PM | Report abuse

When Republicans hire self-described communists as Czars, I will also complain about them, too.

Posted by: WrongfulDeath | February 7, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

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