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President Barack Obama made another pitch Monday for Congress to give him fast-track authority to reorganize the federal government after lawmakers ignored his request to do so last year.
“We sure could use Congress’ help, particularly at a time when Congress is saying they want more efficient government — they give a lot of lip service to it — and we’re operating under severe fiscal constraints,” Obama said at the White House.
Obama had proposed to revive the authority — held by presidents from Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan — with a reorganization of the Commerce Department as his first target. But lawmakers in both parties poured cold water on that plan a year ago.
Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has pushed for a major reorganization of the government but said Obama needs to work better with Congress to achieve it.
“This time, instead of trying to find a way to work around Congress, President Obama needs to approach Congress as a partner in reorganizing federal agencies,” the California Republican said in a statement to CQ Roll Call. “This is something that Congress has said, on a bipartisan basis, it wants to do. There is common ground on this issue and members of both parties and both chambers stand ready to work as partners with the President.”
Under Obama’s proposal, presidents would have the ability to get up-or-down votes within 90 days in the House and Senate on legislation consolidating and reorganizing parts of the federal government.
That would bypass committees and limit individual lawmakers’ ability to kill provisions they don’t like or that hurt their districts.
It’s easy to see why the proposal would appeal to Obama, given how getting Congress to act on anything in recent years has become a big lift; any reorganization is sure to involve losers as well as winners. And it’s a way to cut through the overlapping committee jurisdictions that can stymie bills.
But that’s also what worries some members of Congress in both parties.
Obama’s first planned reorganization — which would have split apart the Commerce Department, created a new business-focused agency and saved $3 billion over a decade — ran into a tough crowd immediately with a bipartisan group of lawmakers wanting to keep the U.S. trade representative independent, among other issues.
The administration has suggested that many other agencies could be similarly reorganized to save billions in wasteful duplication.