Oct. 4, 2015 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Stalled Plan to Remake Commerce

“I thought it was a good initiative. It’s controversial. We held a hearing on it. I don’t know how much appetite there is to get into it,” he said. “To me, it would be one of the best things we could do for the next president, whether it’s President Obama’s second term or Gov. [Mitt] Romney. ... I mean, everybody talks about how the federal government’s gone big, inefficient. This is really a way to put a little bit of pressure to actually change the way the government is.”

Still, Lieberman said proposals such as consolidation authority would have to overcome the deepening cynicism about Congress’ ability to get anything done.

“When you see things that are languishing and beginning to slide off the screen, like the transportation bill or the agriculture bill, then the appetite for some of these things is lost. ... I don’t share that. I think we’ve got to try and keep getting things done until the year is over.”

Warner said he’s still working on it.

“I think, as a former governor, it makes enormous sense,” he said. Democrats continue to search for a Republican to co-sponsor the plan, which Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) earlier expressed some interest in. It’s sponsored in the House by Rep. John Barrow (Ga.), a conservative Democrat.

The administration said it continues to push the proposal and hopes it will get bipartisan support. The fast-track authority had been enjoyed by presidents for decades until it lapsed under President Ronald Reagan.

“Eliminating wasteful duplication and unnecessary bureaucratic barriers is something members of both parties can agree on — and we are urging the Hill to pass the president’s reform proposal to reinstate reorganization authority,” said Moira Mack, spokeswoman for the White House Office of Management and Budget. “We are heartened that both houses of Congress have taken up the president’s legislative proposal to accelerate government consolidation and reform and are continuing to discuss the importance of reinstating this authority with Members of Congress and legislative staff.”

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) said he’s all for consolidation but isn’t sure he likes the fast-track authority. “I think we still have to have a check and a balance on this,” he said.

Begich has been a critic of moving  NOAA out of Commerce.

“I think it is dead, at least for now, at least the NOAA piece,” Begich said. “It’s not a hot topic for them right now.”

But his Alaskan colleague Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) did back the idea of moving NOAA in a letter published in the Alaska Dispatch last month labeling the agency “A Fish out of Water” in the Commerce Department. “There are many issues on which I disagree with President Obama,” she wrote. “When someone is right on something, however, it is important to give credit where it’s due. ... The president asked Congress to provide him with authority to reorganize the federal landscape. Whether Congress agrees to do so or retains that power for itself, at least one part of this plan — moving NOAA into the Department of the Interior — appears to have real merit. It’s time to start making it happen.”

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