Rep. Boehner Accuses Obama of Subverting Constitution

Friday, 02 Oct 2009 10:27 AM

By Jim Meyers and David A. Patten

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House Minority Leader John Boehner is accusing President Obama of subverting and circumventing the Constitution by appointing so-called czars who are not subject to Senate confirmation or scrutiny.

In a wide-ranging interview with Newsmax.TV on Thursday, the Ohio Republican discussed issues ranging from healthcare reform to President Obama’s refusal to engage the GOP leadership in bipartisanship.

But Boehner’s most pointed comments came when Newsmax.TV's Ashley Martella asked whether he is concerned that Obama has appointed so many czars – special advisers or envoys who have relatively few restrictions on their authority or salary – most of whom do not have to win confirmation in the Senate, as Cabinet secretaries do.

To see the video of Minority Leader John Boehner's assessment of President Obama's proliferation of czars and the status of the healthcare debate, Click here.

"I think this whole issue has gotten way out of control in terms of the number of czars that he has and advisers around him," Boehner said.

While acknowledging that Obama has a right to domestic and international policy advisers, he contends that the president crossed the line with his czar appointments.

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"He clearly is circumventing the Constitution, in my view, and I think the heat continues to build on the administration to deal with this," Boehner told Newsmax. "It's one thing to have domestic policy advisers or international policy advisers, but to have this many people at the White House who have really more control than the Cabinet secretaries, I think is a subversion of the Constitution."

Since taking office, the Obama administration has appointed about 33 of the so-called "czars," although the precise number depends on the definition used. Some czar positions, such as the cyber security czar, have been created but not filled.

Though past administrations have used czars — the most famous being the drug czar — Obama appears to have carved out much wider policy and executive roles for his appointees. So far only two of his czar appointments passed through the Senate's constitutional advice-and-consent confirmation procedure.

Obama’s czars are well compensated with six-figure salaries, and many of their budgets are buried within Cabinet or executive branch budgets. Of major concern to Congress are the unconfirmed czars who operate beyond Congressional oversight and appear to have authority beyond even that of some Cabinet secretaries, at least in their special fields of expertise. Health-reform czar Nancy-Ann DeParle and global-warming czar Carol Browner are two examples.

There is little doubt many of the czars wield enormous power. The czar appointments have raised eyebrows on Capitol Hill, including among some Democrats. Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., wrote Obama a letter warning: “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 have taken direction and control of programmatic areas that are the statutory responsibility of Senate confirmed officials.”

Senate Democrats Dianne Feinstein of California and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin also have expressed misgivings.

Obama has appointed six special envoys who act as czars internationally. Obama's foreign-policy czars have not been confirmed by the Senate.

Afghanistan-Pakistan Czar Richard Holbrooke and Mideast Peace Czar George Mitchell both technically report to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, according to the State Department. But press reports suggest they can bypass her easily by communicating directly with the White House.

Some Republican members of Congress have gone so far as to suggest that the czars represent establishment of a "parallel government."

The use of such czars has come back to haunt Obama. His choice for the "green jobs" czar post, Van Jones, resigned after a spate of inflammatory remarks, as well as his participation in "9/11 truther" activities that seek to somehow blame former President George W. Bush for the 9/11 attacks. This drew criticism that some czars have not gone through the proper vetting that occurs during Senate confirmation.

Boehner has other major concerns that transcend the czars. The Ohio Republican also took aim at Democratic proposals for healthcare reform and said the United States needs to reform medical malpractice laws to deal with the "healthcare junksuit lottery" prevalent today. He wondered how Democrats could say "with a straight face" that they're protecting Medicare.

Martella asked Boehner about the healthcare reform plan the Democrats are trying to "ram through" Congress. Boehner has referred to the plan as a "garlic milkshake."

"The American people don't want the government to run their healthcare — 83 percent of Americans like the healthcare they have, 80 percent think it's too expensive," Boehner said.

"So what we really need to be doing is working within the current plan to make it work better.

"Having said that, the more the president and Democrat leaders talk about their government-run plan, the less popular it becomes. That's why I think it's as popular as a garlic milkshake."

Martella asked what Boehner thinks will be the final outcome if the Democrats insist on including the public option in their reform plan even though a Senate committee has voted it down twice.

"I don't know how they're going to find the votes, in the House or the Senate, for their so-called government option," Boehner said.

"There's a lot of moving parts here, but they're going to have a very difficult time with this.

"If the American people stay engaged in this fight over what's going to happen with our healthcare, the American people are going to win. At the end of the day, when the American people get engaged with their government, they speak up, Washington listens.

"So it's critically important that the American people not forget what they did in June and July and August. They have to stay involved. They have to keep in touch with their members of Congress and keep the pressure on, and if that happens I do think it will be impossible for them to pass a very unpopular bill."

Martella noted that the Democrats' plan includes $500 billion in cuts to Medicare. Boehner responded:

"Yesterday was rather interesting. I walked by a Democratic press conference where the Speaker of the House and other Democrat leaders [were] talking about how there were going to be no cuts for seniors, how they were protecting Medicare. Now I don't know how they can do this with a straight face.

"They're the ones offering some $500 billion in cuts to Medicare, and yet they say it's not going to affect seniors."

Boehner told Newsmax that the Republicans have countered the Democrats' reform efforts with several plans of their own.

"You can go to healthcare.gop.gov and look at the various Republican plans that are out there," he said.

"All of them are fairly consistent in terms of making our current healthcare system work better. We don't want to rely on the government. We don’t want government officials getting between patients and their doctors. And we do think we need to do something about cost, which is the big issue that the American people care about.

"But there is really nothing done about cost in any of the Democrat proposals that we've seen. . . No tort reform, no junk lawsuits. It's not just the tort reform, it's the defensive medicine that doctors practice as a result of this healthcare junksuit lottery that goes on today.

"We could save over $100 billion a year in less medicine being practiced if in fact we were to have real reform of medical malpractice laws."

When Martella asked Boehner whether he wanted to take any action against Florida Democrat Alan Grayson, who alleged that the GOP health plan is to hope sick people "die quickly," Boehner said simply:

"You have to remember an old political adage: When your opponents are committing suicide, there's no reason to murder them."

Incredibly, even though Boehner is the leading Republican in the House and the president has spoken of his desire for a bipartisan approach to issues, Boehner says he has not been to the White House in five months.

Martella said: "Minority Whip Eric Cantor says Obama has cut off all communication with Republican leaders. Is that so, and if so, how can he possible use the word bipartisan in anything he says?"

Boehner answered: "I don't know, because I've not talked to him. We haven't been to the White House since late April, early May. No discussions about healthcare. No discussions about Afghanistan. No discussions about all their spending and debt.

"And so there's nothing bipartisan coming out of this White House, and there's nothing bipartisan that's come out of the Democrat leadership here in the House. Nothing."

To see the video of Minority Leader John Boehner's assessment of President Obama's proliferation of czars and the status of the healthcare debate, Click here.

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