The legislative version of the budget deal that President Obama struck with Speaker Boehner (and Senate Majority Leader Reid) to fund the federal government for the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year includes the following language to deny funding for four of President Obama’s “czars” — those in charge of health care, climate change, the auto industry, and urban affairs:
SEC. 2262. None of the funds made available by this division may be used to pay the salaries and expenses for the following positions:
(1) Director, White House Office of Health Reform.
(2) Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change.
(3) Senior Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury assigned to the Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry and Senior Counselor for Manufacturing Policy.
(4) White House Director of Urban Affairs.
Nevertheless, President Obama has now declared that he will “construe” this passage to mean that he is allowed to continue to use the funds in question to pay for the posts in question, saying that this section would otherwise violate his constitutional powers. Politico had previously reported that eliminating the “czar” funding was part of the deal to which Obama had agreed.
Moreover, as the Daily Caller’s Jonathan Strong writes,
As a candidate for president in 2008, Obama blasted former President George W. Bush for his aggressive use of signing statements to alter how laws would be implemented after he signed them.
“Congress’s job is to pass legislation. The president can veto it, or he can sign it. But what George Bush has been trying to do as part of his effort to accumulate more power in the presidency, is he’s been saying ‘Well, I can basically change what Congress passed by attaching a letter saying, I don’t agree with this part, or I don’t agree with that part. I’m going to choose to interpret it this way or that way,’” Obama said.
“That’s not part of his power. But this is part of the whole theory of George Bush that he can make laws as he’s going along. I disagree with that. I taught the Constitution for ten years….We’re not going to use signing statements as a way of doing an end run around Congress,’ Obama said.”
None of Obama’s “czars” are in offices established by Congress, and none have been confirmed by the Senate. Therefore, when Obama taught the Constitution (as a part-time lecturer), one wonders whether — or how — he dealt with this passage from Article II, Section 2 (emphasis added):
The President…shall nominate, and by and with the advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law.
Perhaps, when addressing this passage, Obama also gave his students a fuller and richer understanding by quotiong Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 69. Hamilton, of course, became President Washington’s first secretary of the Treasury — after that position had been created by Congress, Washington had nominated Hamilton, and Hamilton had been confirmed by the Senate. In the event that Obama didn’t reference Federalist 69 when he taught his class, it would be well worth his reading now:
The President is to nominate, and, with the advice and consent of the Senate [italics in original] to appoint ambassadors and other public ministers, judges of the Supreme Court, and in general all officers of the United States established by law, and whose appointments are not otherwise provided for by the Constitution. The king of Great Britain is emphatically and truly styled the fountain of honor. He not only appoints to all offices, but can create offices [italics added]. He can confer titles of nobility at pleasure, and has the disposal of an immense number of church preferments. There is evidently a great inferiority in the power of the President, in this particular, to that of the British king.