President Barack Obama's dream of consolidating nine government agencies that deal with commerce into a single federal department appears to be dead.
During the 2012 campaign, Obama said he wants to "consolidate a whole bunch of government agencies. We should have one secretary of business."
Initially, Obama made some progress. In January 2013, he announced his proposal, seeking greater authority from Congress to allow reorganization of the government, starting with a consolidation of business agencies into "one more efficient department to promote competitiveness, exports and American business."
In his proposed budget, he specified that "the new department would include the Department of Commerce's core 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 U.S. Trade and Development Agency."
Then, on July 8, 2013, Obama held a public event at the White House to promote his agenda on government reorganization. "We're doing a lot of this work administratively, but unfortunately there are still a bunch of rules, a lot of legislation that has poorly designed some of our agencies and forces folks to engage in hoop jumping," he said.
Obama argued that "every president from Herbert Hoover to Ronald Reagan had this authority to redesign the federal government, the executive branch, to deliver services better -- just like every business owner seeking to make sure that his or her company keep pace with the times. Currently, we do not have that capacity."
Since we last rated this promise in August 2013, the Obama administration continued to push the idea.
Obama included a similar proposal in his fiscal year 2016 and 2017 budget proposals. "The president is again asking the Congress to revive an authority that presidents had for almost the entire period from 1932 through 1984—the ability to submit proposals to reorganize the executive branch through a fast-track procedure," Obama's 2017 proposal said, arguing that "consolidating business and trade promotion into a single department would enhance government productivity and effectiveness."
One GOP lawmaker, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C, gave Obama a modicum of bipartisan cover, saying he hoped to work with Democrats "to advance the sensible goal of reducing spending and making government more effective by consolidating duplicative government activities," according to Government Executive magazine.
By and large, though, partisan polarization and a crisis-to-crisis approach in Congress meant that Obama was unable to gain traction for the idea with Republican congressional leaders. And now, time has essentially run out. We rate this a Promise Broken.