Obama Seeks Power to Consolidate Federal Agencies

Susan Walsh/AP Photo

ABC News' Ann Compton ( @AnnCompton ) reports:

One year after first proposing consolidation of some overlapping government agencies, President Obama is finally ready to ask Congress for authority to take action.

White House officials say the request will be for what is called "authority to consolidate" some federal functions, starting in the trade area, including the Department of Commerce , the U.S. Trade Representative, the Small Business Administration, and three other export-related offices. The president is asking for powers he claims expired under the Reagan administration, which cut a significant amount of government bureaucracy in the 1980s.

In his State of the Union address to Congress in January 2011, President Obama drew chuckles and even some applause from the Congress when he cited what he called his favorite example of government overlap.

"The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they're in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them when they're in saltwater," he declared to laughter in the House chamber. "I hear it gets even more complicated once they're smoked. " To that the legislators broke into applause.

"We live and do business in the information age, but the last major reorganization of the government happened in the age of black-and-white TV. There are 12 different agencies that deal with exports. There are at least five different agencies that deal with housing policy," President Obama stated then.

This new authority would allow Congress to vote up or down the entire package of consolidations within 90 days.