The White House on Thursday proposed the most comprehensive plan to reorganize the federal government in 100 years, including a merger of the departments of Education and Labor, and a proposal to add work requirements for welfare programs.
“Businesses change all the time,” said White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. “Government doesn’t, and one of the things you get when you hire a businessman to become president is you bring this attitude from the private sector.”
The sweeping reorganization plan stems from an order signed by Mr. Trump in March 2017 calling for a review of the federal government to streamline agencies and reduce waste. The combined education and labor department would be called the Department of Education and the Workforce, or DEW, and would oversee programs for students and workers.
In a presentation to the Cabinet, Mr. Mulvaney cited examples of bringing all food-safety regulations under the Agriculture Department, instead of sharing those responsibilities with the Food and Drug Administration.
“If it’s cheese pizza, it’s FDA, but you put pepperoni on it and it becomes a USDA product. I mean, come on?” he said. “An open-faced roast beef sandwich is USDA, a closed-faced roast beef sandwich is FDA. Not making this up. You can’t make this kind of stuff up. This would only happen in the government.”
The plan would also move the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, from the USDA to Health and Human Services, which would be renamed the Department of Health and Public Welfare and oversee public assistance programs.
“We’re still dealing with a government that is from the early 20th century,” Mr. Mulvaney said. “It simply doesn’t make sense.”
In merging the Departments of Education and Labor, Mr. Mulvaney said, the government’s 47-odd job-training programs could be reduced to 16.
The plan also would privatize the U.S. Postal Service.
The reorganization plan faces an uncertain fate in Congress, with some Democrats and unions representing the federal workforce saying it has no chance of being approved.
“Democrats and Republicans in Congress have rejected President Trump’s proposals to drastically gut investments in education, health care, and workers — and he should expect the same result for this latest attempt to make government work worse for the people it serves,” said Sen. Patty Murray, Washington Democrat.
But Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said the plan deserves serious consideration in Congress.
“The vast majority of people I ask believe the federal government is badly broken,” Mr. Johnson said. “That is why I am so pleased to see this administration thinking big and ‘outside the box’ to bring effective reform and reorganization to a government structure developed for the previous century. I pledge to do everything I can to support this effort to make the government more efficient and effective for the 21st century.”
American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. called the overhaul proposal “an unprecedented power grab” that has nothing to do with improving the efficiency or effectiveness of government.
“We are particularly alarmed over proposals to privatize both the U.S. Postal Service and our federal air traffic control system,” Mr. Cox said. He asserted most of the proposals target “domestic programs that have long been unpopular with anti-government ideologues: merging the Education and Labor departments, removing the food stamp and school meal programs from USDA, and breaking up the personnel agency that administers federal employee background investigations, retirement claims and benefits, and employment policies.”
“These proposals are out of touch and demonstrative of a president who not only does not respect the hard work of federal employees, but does not understand their expertise, service, or value,” he said.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez, a former Labor secretary under President Obama, said Mr. Trump’s proposal to move the federal food stamp program to a new agency “opens the door for him to fulfill a longtime Republican goal of gutting social safety programs Americans rely on, including SNAP and Medicaid benefits.”
“Trump is attempting to play political games with our education and our workforce in order to please his base,” Mr. Perez said.