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Obama proposes merging several agencies

WASHINGTON -- Seeking more power to shrink the government, President Barack Obama Friday suggested smashing six economic agencies into one, an election-year idea intended to halt bureaucratic nightmares and force Republicans to back him on one of their own favorite issues.

"The government we have is not the government we need," Obama told business owners he'd gathered at the White House.

Sounding like a manager of a disorganized company, Obama asked Congress to give him a kind of reorganization power no president has had since Ronald Reagan. It would guarantee Obama a vote, within 90 days, on any idea he offers to consolidate agencies, provided it saves money and cuts the government.

His first target: Merging six major trade and commerce agencies into a one-stop-shopping department for American businesses. The Commerce Department would be among those that would cease to exist.

Congress would keep the final say, but Obama would have a stronger hand to skip much of the outside lobbying and fighting and get to a vote.

Congressional reaction seemed generally favorable, but cautious. Republicans skeptically pointed to Obama's past promises as the size of the nation's debt keeps growing. -- AP

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