- Associated Press - Friday, January 13, 2012

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama will ask Congress on Friday for greater power to shrink the federal government, and he would start by trying to merge six major trade and commerce agencies whose overlapping programs can be baffling to businesses, the White House said Friday. The Commerce Department would be among those that would cease to exist.

In an election year and a political atmosphere of tighter spending, Obama’s motivation is about improving a giant bureaucracy, but that is hardly all of it.

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 of Representatives and the Senate, to show why they would be against the pursuit of a leaner government.

Obama will ask Congress to give him a type of reorganizational power last held by a president when Ronald Reagan was in office in the early 1980s. 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 grant Obama this fast-track authority and then decide whether to approve any of his specific ideas.

“The government we have is not the government we need,” said Jeffrey Zients, who is leading the effort as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Obama was announcing his effort at the White House Friday morning. Administration officials first confirmed the news to The Associated Press.

From the Congress, a spokesman for Sen. Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, pledged Obama’s plan would get a careful review.

The spokesman, Don Stewart, also said: “After presiding over one of the largest expansions of government in history, and a year after raising the issue in his last State of the Union, it’s interesting to see the president finally acknowledge that Washington is out of control.”

Obama has an imperative to deliver. He made the promise to come up with a smart reorganization of the government in his last State of the Union speech a year ago.



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