Senators Look to Give Trump Authority to Reform and Reorganize Government

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., is the author of the bill. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., is the author of the bill. Susan Walsh/AP

Republican lawmakers have introduced legislation to give President Trump increased authority to reorganize the government as he sees fit, including consolidating, transferring, abolishing or creating agencies.

The 2018 Reforming Government Act seeks to start the process for Trump to implement the proposals the White House unveiled last week in its reorganization plan, which included 32 distinct recommendations for reshaping an array of federal agencies. Congress has not granted a president reorganization authority since 1984, though President Carter was the last to actually use the power.

The measure would not give the White House carte blanche to start implementing Trump's proposed reforms. Instead, it would provide a pathway for those recommendations to go before Congress for consideration. Trump would still need to send his formal proposals to lawmakers, who would then have 90 days to approve them. If they took no action, the plans would not advance. The president would have two years to officially send his suggestions to Congress.

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“The vast majority of people I ask believe the federal government is badly broken,” said Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., the bill’s author. “That is why I am so pleased to see this administration thinking big and ‘outside the box’ to bring effective reform and reorganization to a government structure developed for the previous century. I am happy to introduce this legislation that provides the administration the authority it will need to make the government more efficient and effective for the 21st century.”

The bill builds off previous reorganization authorities, which spelled out the tight time frame for congressional approval. It would also require the Office of Management and Budget to identify cost savings and require that the proposals lead to a net reduction in spending. President Obama also requested reorganization authority in 2012, but Congress did not provide it to him.

“It is not a new concept for Congress to allow the administration the ability to reorganize federal agencies,” said Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla, a cosponsor on the bill. “We should provide the administration the capability to utilize these common-sense ideas to make agencies more efficient for the American people and the federal employees.”

Johnson and Lankford, who lead the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and its panel on federal management, respectively, are the two top lawmakers in the upper chamber with oversight of the federal bureaucracy.

Among the changes Trump has proposed are merging the departments of Education and Labor, dramatic changes to the Agriculture Department and its food assistance programs, privatizing the U.S. Postal Service, and stripping the Office of Personnel Management of its independence and shifting its benefits delivery functions to other agencies. 

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