Obama floats plan for a 'secretary of Business' if he wins second term

by Peter Schroeder
10/29/12


The president seeks to burnish his business credentials with a plan to create a one-stop shop for oversight. 

President Obama says he would like to establish a secretary of Business if he wins a second term.

In an interview with MSNBC, the president said he wants to consolidate a number of business and trade-related agencies, creating a one-stop shop for oversight. 

I’ve said that I want to consolidate a whole bunch of government agencies. We should have one secretary of Business, instead of nine different departments that are dealing with things like giving loans to SBA [the Small Business Administration] or helping companies with exports, he said in an interview with MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough.

Obama's statements amount to a late-campaign effort to burnish his business credentials against Republican Mitt Romney, who has highlighted his success as a private equity executive throughout the presidential race.

The Romney campaign responded to the idea by accusing the president of stifling the private sector.

We don’t need a ‘secretary of business.’ We need a new president who actually understands business and won't punish it with the job-killing regulations that have been imposed by the Obama administration, said Ryan Williams, a campaign spokesman. Mitt Romney spent his career in the private sector as a successful businessman, and as president he will promote pro-growth policies that will create jobs, help small business and strengthen the middle class.

The president originally proposed such a consolidation in January as a way to help businesses navigate the federal bureaucracy. 

The idea, which required congressional approval and failed to gain significant traction, has re-emerged as the president runs a close race against Romney, the former head of Bain Capital.

Under the president's original proposal, six different commerce and trade agencies, including the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the Export-Import Bank, would be brought under one roof. 

The president also said the SBA should be elevated to a Cabinet-level position.

Obama blamed Congress for inaction on the proposal. 

The reason we haven’t done that is not because of some big ideological difference, the president said in his interview, taped Saturday and aired Monday.

It has to do with Congress talking a good game about wanting to streamline government but being very protective about not giving up their jurisdiction over various pieces of government.

The president cited his efforts to consolidate the executive branch in response to a question on how the president could work with Congress in a second term if it remains divided, with the GOP controlling the House and Democrats retaining a slim majority in the Senate.

While Romney has accused Obama of burying businesses in new regulations — from the healthcare reform law and the Dodd-Frank financial reform law — the president defended his efforts to streamline old regulations.

I have actually initiated a whole process to look back at all the old regulations to see, are there ones that don’t work? he said. That should be a project Republicans are happy to work with me on, because if we’re going to streamline government, we should do it smartly.

— This post was updated at 1:42 p.m. with a statement from the Romney campaign.


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