WASHINGTON, Jan. 13- President Obama asked Congress today to grant him "consolidation authority" so he can move forward on a proposal to streamline the government. 

During this morning’s remarks from the White House, the President discussed the proposal for government reform, which would merge six commerce and trade agencies into a new department.  Obama needs Congressional approval to give him this authority.

“I’m calling on Congress to reinstate the authority that past presidents have had to streamline and reform the executive branch,” he said. “I will only use this authority for reforms that result in more efficiency, better service and a leaner government.”

The proposal includes the merger of the Commerce Department, the Small Business Administration, the Office of the U.S. Trade representative and other independent business agencies into a new Cabinet agency.
"Right now, there are six departments and agencies focused primarily on business and trade in the federal government - from the Commerce Department to the Small Business Administration to the U.S. Trade Representative's office," Obama said. "In this case, six isn't better than one."

The U.S. Trade Representative's Office of Agricultural Affairs has overall responsibility for negotiations and policy coordination regarding agriculture. Its responsibilities include Free Trade Agreements (FTA) and World Trade Organization (WTO) Development Agenda (Doha) negotiations on agriculture, operation of the WTO Committees on Agriculture and on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures, and agricultural regulatory issues. The office also monitors U.S. implementation of Farm Bill programs for consistency with international obligations in the WTO.

The last president to have this type of reorganizational authority was Ronald Reagan. In Obama's case, only consolidation authority to propose mergers that vow to save money and shrink government is allowed. If the authority is granted, Obama is entitled to a vote from Congress within 90 days.

Republican leaders doubt the benefit of Obama’s proposal, believing it to be a political move in the last months before the next presidential election rather than a sincere attempt to trim government inefficiency. 

"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," Don Stewart , spokesman for Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kent.), reportedly said from Capitol Hill today.


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