The PJ Tatler

Shrewd Move: Obama Seeking Power to Consolidate Government Agencies (Update: Obama Elevates SBA to Cabinet)

This has nothing to do with the GOP primary or the coming election, of course. Don’t question the timing.

President Obama will ask Congress on Friday for the power to consolidate parts of the federal government, proposing a first step of combining several trade- and commerce-related agencies under a plan that the White House said could eliminate more than 1,000 jobs and save $3 billion over 10 years.A senior administration official said the White House proposal is Obama’s follow-through on his promise during last year’s State of the Union address to create a leaner, more efficient bureaucracy.

And he waited an entire year, past a couple of massive debt ceiling hikes and after his highly questionable “recess” appointments, and a couple of weeks ahead of his next State of the Union address, to do it. Pretend not to be aware of any of that.

Obama will propose combining the functions and staff of six trade- and commerce-related agencies and offices: 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 move would ease the regulatory burden on businesses and save money by eliminating duplicative functions such as human resources, the White House official said.

So it leaves the EPA and NLRB untouched.

This is very cunning and Congress doesn’t seem to have had a clue that it was coming. Having hit repeatedly from the left, Obama is now swinging from the right. He bypassed Congress on his immigration amnesty-lite and his appointments, which pleased his based and goosed the Beltway’s acrimony, but is now asking Congress for a budget-cutting power last held by President Reagan. The devil of Obama’s re-org will be in the details, but we won’t get details for 90 days if Congress grants him the power. If it doesn’t, he can plausibly set them up for getting in the way of reform. Reform his way, but reform nevertheless. And we’re supposed to forget that he has grown the federal bureaucracy dramatically; this small effort offsets the optics of Obama as the great expander of the federal behemoth. It is also intended to offset the optics of the president’s debt ceiling hike.

Rep. Darrell Issa reacts:

[I]n a signal that the issue could garner some bipartisan support, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and one of Obama’s biggest GOP critics, said Friday that he stands “ready to work with President Obama” on the reorganization.

“I hope this announcement represents the beginning of a sincere and dedicated effort to enact meaningful reforms,” Issa said.

So say we all, despite the overwhelming evidence.

Update: President Obama just announced that he is elevating the Small Business Administration to cabinet-level. So he is proposing to shrink government by growing it. Is this a poison pill to ramp up GOP opposition to his plans?

Update: Just for a little perspective, under President Obama’s tenure the federal workforce has grown by about 25,000 positions. Today’s announced reforms, if carried through completely, could be expected to trim about 1,200 federal jobs. So the notion that Obama is now claiming the reform mantle is laughable, but today’s move gives him a path to do it. The GOP might consider meeting his offer a little poker play, and raise it.