Reform the Department of Commerce? Not Going to Happen Anytime Soon
Monday, June 18, 2012
Atlantic salmon (photo: Paul Nicklen, National Geographic)
It’s often said that an election year is never a good time to ask Congress to tackle significant political issues. Between the distraction of running for reelection and the fear of doing anything controversial that might upset voters (or major contributors), lawmakers are usually inclined to punt on the tough stuff.
Such as reforming a cabinet-level agency like the Department of Commerce.
Last year, during his State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama proposed revamping the Commerce Department. Citing the example of salmon, which are regulated by Commerce when they’re in saltwater but not freshwater, Obama said it was time to move some offices out of the department and consolidate others.
Obama submitted his grand plan to Congress earlier this year, hoping it would get fast-tracked. Instead, it got derailed.
Some blamed the problem on partisan gridlock. But the reality is it’s an election year, and a presidential one at that, and Republicans were not inclined to approve anything that might make Obama look good with voters. In fact, Republican President Ronald Reagan proposed a similar reorganization back in 1983.
Among the bigger changes Obama wanted for Commerce were:
· Moving the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (the regulators of saltwater salmon) to the Department of the Interior, which oversees the freshwater version.
· Shifting the Small Business Administration into a newly-streamlined Commerce Department.
· Folding the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative into Commerce.
To Learn More:
Stalled Plan to Remake Commerce (by Steven Dennis, Roll Call)
Obama’s Salmon Joke (CBS News) (video)
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