Obama Should Cut Costs by Working with—Not around—Congress

Asking for more executive authority is not how Obama should go about trimming the budget.

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Heading into his re-election campaign, President Barack Obama suddenly wants to save the taxpayers money. He wants Congress to give him broad new powers to reorganize agencies within the executive branch in order to cut costs and function more efficiently.

If he wants to improve and streamline the bureaucracy, then the Republicans should be all for it. Given his past pronouncements about wanting to work around Congress however, members of the legislature are right to receive the proposal with caution.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the budget and deficit.]

Obama has been nothing if not contemptuous of the legislative branch and its authority since coming into office in 2009. More often than not he has adopted a "my way or the highway" attitude toward his proposals, often refusing to negotiate with either the House or Senate until the eleventh hour. This may be good politics, at least when trying to rally the base, but it almost always results in gridlock and bad policy.

What the president wants to do, at least initially, is get from Congress the authority to reorganize agencies as he sees fit in the areas of trade and commerce, and make one new agency out of the U.S. Department of Commerce's essential business and trade functions, the Small Business Administration, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the Trade and Development Agency.

According to administration sources this would save about $3 billion over 10 years, a drop in the bucket as far as the potential savings from government reorganization are concerned, but one the GOP and the Democrats in Congress should embrace—even if they throw up the red flag as far as giving Obama the blanket authority to do it elsewhere is concerned.

[Read the U.S. News debate: Does the United States Need a Balanced Budget Amendment?]

Ideally, Congress should wait to see what the reorganization proposal is, tinker with it to make it better by producing even more savings—perhaps by shutting down the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, which is really just a corporate boondoggle—pass it, and then send it to the president's desk for his signature.

Obama wants to run against a "do nothing Congress." He should be denied the opportunity. Good ideas, especially those that save the taxpayers money, deserve Congress's full and complete consideration. Giving the president blanket authority to do anything, even if Congress gets 90 days to approve or reject the proposal on an "up or down vote," isn't one of them.

  • Check out our editorial cartoons on President Obama.
  • Read Peter Roff on why Americans think the federal government has too much power.
  • See an opinion slide show of 10 wasteful stimulus projects.