Washington – President Barack Obama asked Congress on Friday for more power to streamline and reorganize the federal government, a move designed to claim the political middle ground in an election likely to be dominated by questions about Washington’s role in the economy.
The president asked legislators to grant him “consolidation authority” to merge agencies that perform similar functions. If that authority is granted, Congress would be required to hold an up-or-down vote on the president’s streamlining plan within 90 days of its submission.
Among other things, the president’s plan would combine several agencies that focus on commerce and trade, including the Small Business Administration, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corp. and the Trade and Development Agency.
Under the move, the Commerce Department as currently constituted would be eliminated. Some of its responsibilities would be shifted to a new department yet to be named, while other functions would be shifted elsewhere.
The president will also elevate the Small Business Administration to a Cabinet-level agency — a largely symbolic move that does not require congressional approval.
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