From Pat Dollard:
January 13, 2012
WASHINGTON (AP) – President Barack Obama will ask Congress on Friday for greater power to shrink the federal government, and his first idea is merging six sprawling trade and commerce agencies whose overlapping programs can be baffling to businesses, a senior administration official told The Associated Press.
Obama will call on Congress to give him a type of reorganizational power last held by a president when Ronald Reagan was in office. The Obama version would be a so-called consolidation authority allowing him to propose mergers that promise to save money and help consumers. The deal would entitle him to an up-or-down vote from Congress in 90 days.
It would be up to lawmakers, therefore, to first grant Obama this fast-track authority and then decide whether to approve any of his specific ideas.
To voters sick of dysfunction, Obama wants to show some action on making Washington work better. Politically, his plan would allow him to do so by putting the onus on Congress and in particular his Republican critics in the House and Senate, to show why they would be against the pursuit of a leaner government.
At the time, Obama grabbed attention by pointing out the absurdity of government inefficiency. In what he called his favorite example, Obama said: “The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they’re in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them when they’re in saltwater. And I hear it gets even more complicated once they’re smoked.”
The White House said the problem is serious for consumers who turn to their government for help and often do not know where to begin.
Not in decades has the government undergone a sustained reorganization of itself. Presidents have tried from time to time, but each part of the bureaucracy has its own defenders inside and outside the government, which can make merger ideas politically impossible. That’s particularly true because “efficiency” is often another way of sayingpeople will lose their jobs.
Should he prevail, Obama’s first project would be to combine six major operations of the government that focus on business and trade.
They are: the Commerce Department’s core business and trade functions; the Small Business Administration; the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative; the Export-Import Bank; the Overseas Private Investment Corporation; and the Trade and Development Agency. The goal would be one agency designed to help businesses thrive.