This news from the Whitehouse: President Obama has proposed a sweeping reorganization of several executive branch agencies. Under the President’s proposal, the present Department of Commerce would be split up, with some former Commerce divisions moved to other agencies (for example, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) moved to the Department of the Interior).The remaining portions of the Commerce Department would then be merged with several other presently independent agencies and parts of the Executive Office of the President (Export-Import Bank, Overseas Private Investment Corporation, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Trade and Development Authority) into a new cabinet-level agency. As a precursor to this reorganization, the President elevated the SBA to a Cabinet-level agency. To implement this reorganization, President Obama proposed reinstatement of ‘fast-track’ authority for government reorganizations. For much of the 20th century, Presidents had authority to propose large-scale reorganizations which were subject to limited debate and could only be voted up or down by Congress without further amendment (in a process with some similarities to ‘fast track’ authority sometimes granted for negotiating international trade agreements). Congress stopped renewing this ‘fast-track’ authority for government reorganization during the Reagan administration, and the authority lapsed in 1984.
At this time, whether the Congerss will grant this authority is unknown. Also unknown, is how any reorganization will affect the rights of federal employees.