As outlined in several recent articles FedSmith has published, the White House has a plan to reorganize and restructure the federal government. These published articles have been careful to note that there are proposals requiring Congressional approval to enact the changes.
Introducing the “Reforming Government Act of 2018”
The ‘‘Reforming Government Act of 2018’’ (S 3137) provides a legal path for making the changes recently discussed by the director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney. The bill introduced by Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), would make it possible for President Trump to start the process for implementing the government reorganization plan.
The Reforming Government Act does not give the president authority to make unilateral changes in how the federal government is organized. But, what the bill would do is change the current law to incorporate the changes proposed in the reorganization plan recently released.
What the Bill Would Change
There is existing legislation that provides a path for reorganizing the federal government. The new bill would modify that legislation.
One of the changes would be to allow the president to submit a reorganization plan that would provide for “the creation of a new agency that is not a component or part of an existing executive department or independent agency.’’
Also, the legislation would eliminate the restriction in the current law to create “a new executive department or renaming an existing executive department, abolishing or transferring an executive department…”
These changes are important as the law would be changed to incorporate significant portions of the new reorganization plan. For example, the new proposal would create a new agency called the Department of Education and the Workforce. This agency would combine the existing Department of Labor and the Department of Education into one agency with a new name.
Time Limits and the Role of Congress
Under the legislation, President Trump would have two years after the bill is enacted to submit the reorganization plan to Congress. Congress would have 90 days to approve the changes. If the changes are not approved, the plan would not be implemented.
Existing legislation already outlines how such a proposal will be handled in Congress and limitations on debate and voting on the reorganization proposal. The bill that has been introduced would only make changes to what can be in the reorganization proposal as outlined above.
Mandated Discharge from Committee and Voting Requirements on Proposal
For example, a reorganization proposal is automatically referred to specific committees in the House and the Senate. Each committee is required make its recommendation within 75 calendar days of continuous session of Congress following the date of such resolution’s introduction. If the committee does not report its recommendation, the plan is automatically discharged and placed on the calendar. The rules as outlined in the statute appear to mandate a vote (“the vote on final passage of the resolution shall occur”) with limitations on debate time and prohibiting any amendments.
Of course, it is very difficult for significant legislation to emerge from Congress. We can expect there will be little support from Democrats to support the changes in this bill as there is usually an automatic reaction to oppose the administration. If the bill is to be enacted, it will require full support of the Republicans in Congress, particularly in the Senate, with the possibility of several Democrats also supporting the bill.
In other words, it is not a certainty that this bill will become law. But, as many federal employees would be impacted if the reorganization is put into place, it is worth keeping an eye on the progress of this legislation.