Obama proposes overhaul

2012-01-14 07:26

Washington – President Barack Obama yesterday asked Congress for the power to begin the biggest reorganisation of the US government in decades, and said he would start by streamlining trade agencies.

“We live in a 21st-century economy, but we’ve still got a government organised for the 20th century,” Obama said at the White House, announcing a plan aides said would save $3 billion over 10 years.

“Our economy has fundamentally changed, as has the world, but our government, our agencies have not,” said Obama.

The president said his first move would be to bring agencies dealing with trade and exports under a single department to make it easier for small businesses to get government help in marketing their products abroad.

The agencies involved include the Department of Commerce, the Small Business Administration, the US Trade Representative, the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the US Trade and Development Agency.

While Obama seeks the agreement of Congress on the changes, the post of Small Business Administrator, currently held by Karen Mills, will be elevated to cabinet rank, officials said.

In order to carry out the changes, Obama will need to a power known as reorganisation authority, which was once in the US leader’s armoury but expired under president Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

“Let me be clear: I will only use this authority for reforms that result in more efficiency, better service, and a leaner government,” said President Obama.”

Obama’s request will likely lead to a fierce debate over the extent of the president’s powers in relation to Congress in the US political system.

It will also land on Capitol Hill amid a prolonged standoff between Obama and congressional Republicans with US politics roiled ahead of his re-election bid in November.

Some observers will likely see Obama’s reorganisation plans as a sign that he is trying to defuse Republican claims that he is a big spending, big government liberal, and as an attempt to back his political foes into a corner.

“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,” said Don Stewart, a spokesperson for Republican Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell.

“While we first learned of this proposal this morning in the press, we’ll be sure to give it a careful review once the White House provides us with the details of what it is he wants to do.”

Brendan Buck, a spokesperson for House of Representatives speaker John Boehner said his boss also looked forward to more details about the proposal.

“Given the president’s record of growing government, we’re interested to learn whether this proposal represents actual relief for American businesses or just the appearance of it,” Buck said.

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