A Breakthrough in the Commerce Secretary Crisis?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 15 2011 10:50 AM

A Breakthrough in the Commerce Secretary Crisis?

I made this crackpot suggestion two weeks ago, reacting to the news that the Commerce Secretary nomination of John Bryson was still being held up in the Senate.

So why not start downsizing the Commerce Department, pull the Bryson nomination, and announce that the government's goal is returning to the pre-Woodrow Wilson regime of a unified department of commerce and labor?

And now the New York Times reports this:

The administration may also merge the Department of Commerce, the Office of the United States Trade Representative and some economic divisions at the State Department into a new agency, administration officials said. Possible names include the Department of Jobs or the Department of Competitiveness.

That's not what I meant, but it's a start. You could certainly get some Republicans on board for a scheme that reformed and renamed the Commerce Department while shrinking its staff. Amoeba-fying it into a new cabinet post, though -- there aren't going to be many takers for that.

Also, why try? Why put a trial balloon about this in the nation's most influential paper instead of stepping up the pressure to appoint two new Fed governors? The last time a Fed governor nominee gave up, after being pulled down by a Republican hold, he took his case to the NYT op-ed page. So there's interest in the issue, and staffing up an existing organization with immense influence over the economy might be a more effective pre-election plot than shuffling around federal agencies that won't have the same immediate impact.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 



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