Lawmakers to White House: About that reorganization . . .


Well, chalk one up for congressional bipartisanship: Democrats and Republicans alike agree that lawmakers should have a say in the Obama administration’s government streamlining agenda.

“Reorganization of the executive branch is a shared responsibility,” Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., the respective chairs of the main House and Senate government oversight committees, said in a Friday letter to Jeffrey Zients, one of the White House management officials leading the effort.

Issa and Lieberman go on to ask for “a tentative timeline for development and implementation of the reorganization proposal, as well as regular updates during the review.” The two also recommend that they be included early on, the better to “contribute collaboratively” to the proposal’s development. Also signing the letter were the two committees’ ranking members, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

More than a month has passed since Obama announced plans to remodel the government in the interests of American economic competitiveness.  While the White House has thus far revealed little else about the project, more information will be forthcoming in the next couple of weeks, Zients said a few days ago.

Although Lisa Brown, the reorganization’s co-director, had been scheduled to speak tomorrow at a National Academy of Public Administration forum, she will not be appearing because of a scheduling conflict, Office of Management and Budget spokeswoman Moira Mack said via email this afternoon.

Asked for comment on the letter, Mack said that Zients and Brown are starting to seek advice and suggestions from Congress, program administrators and relevant stakeholder groups.

FWIW, it may make sense for the White House to give the Hill a stake in the reorganization, given that Obama plans to ask Congress to approve the final product. But it’s also worth remembering—as former Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., noted at a hearing last week– that lawmakers can be a hindrance as much as a help.

“Duplicate and overlapping programs frequently exist because of the way we in Congress legislate,” Davis told Issa’s committee. Jurisdiction, he added, “trumps all.”

[Updated Monday at 12:25 p.m. to reflect OMB comment and at 1:45 to note that Brown will not be appearing at National Academy of Public Administration forum.]


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