President Obama is refusing to eliminate several "czars" who were cut in the fiscal 2011 spending bill, calling the provision a violation of the separation of powers.
When Congress unveiled its budget compromise last week, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) touted the provision as the elimination of "four of the Obama Administration's controversial czars." Among the cut czars was the assistant to the president for energy and climate change, a position that was held by Carol Browner until she stepped down in January.
But in a signing statement Friday, Obama argued that lawmakers had overstepped their authority.
"The President has well-established authority to supervise and oversee the executive branch, and to obtain advice in furtherance of this supervisory authority," Obama wrote. "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."
The provision, he added, undermines "the President's ability to exercise his constitutional responsibilities and take care that the laws be faithfully executed."
Republicans had sought the elimination of Browner's former position, along with the director of the White House Office of Health Reform, the senior adviser assigned to the Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry and senior counselor for manufacturing policy, and the White House director of urban affairs.
The provision also eliminated Browner's former office, the White House's Office of Energy and Climate Change. But the White House had already decided to close the office last month (E&ENews PM, April 12).
On his blog last week, Boehner argued that the "proliferation of czars under the Obama Administration has become a potent symbol of big government." Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), who authored the provision, said in a statement that a "bipartisan coalition" of lawmakers had decided that it was unconstitutional for Obama to appoint the czars without Senate confirmation.
Obama does not have the authority to "exempt himself from the laws that all Americans must follow," Scalise said.
"The president knew that the czar amendment was part of the overall budget deal he agreed to, and if he cannot be trusted to keep his word on this, then how can he be trusted as we negotiate on larger issues like federal spending and the economy," he said. "The United States is not a kingdom run by a political dictator, and President Obama needs to quickly reverse course and abide by the law eliminating the czars that were part of the budget resolution agreed to by Speaker Boehner, Senate Majority Leader [Harry] Reid [D-Nev.], and President Obama himself."