Commentary Magazine


Do We Have a Congress?

Rory Cooper of the Heritage Foundation writes:

President Obama has a Pay Czar, Border Czar, Energy Czar, Urban Czar, Tech Czar, Faith Based Czar, Health Reform Czar, TARP Czar, Drug Czar, Stimulus Accountability Czar, Non-Proliferation Czar, Terrorism Czar, Regulatory Czar, Guantanamo Closure Czar, AIDS Czar, Weather Czar, Intelligence Czar, Economic Czar, Green Jobs Czar and Cybersecurity Czar. I’m not making any of that up! All of these people report directly to the President, and most of the new positions expand government’s reach into the American daily life to a troubling extent. . .  As John McCain said, even the Romanovs who ruled Russia for 3 centuries only had 17 czars. This is madness.

Cooper raises a valid point: it is not just that we’ve had an enormous expansion of power by the federal government, it is that it has been done with virtually no Congressional consent, funding, or oversight. Liberals were very concerned about an imperial executive in the era of George W. Bush but nary a peep now is raised when Congress becomes a mute bystander. Conservatives don’t like the expansion of federal power, the erosion of the rule of law, the attack on the free market and irresponsible spending — but they should be alert also to the grave constitutional distortion underway. Congress may not be to conservatives’ ideological liking but at least there the minority’s voice is heard in the Senate, debate and compromise can take place, and there is the opportunity for public opinion to register. Government by executive fiat contains none of those protections.

At some point the legislative branch may want to wake from its slumber and assert its rightful role. And the lawmakers might want to do that before they get blamed in 2010 for the executive branch’s failings. “It wasn’t us!” is going to sound like a lame excuse.