WASHINGTON — House Republicans introduced legislation Tuesday containing detailed plans for eliminating the Commerce Department by farming out some responsibilities to other federal agencies, turning over others to the private sector and killing several programs outright.
The GOP measure would terminate six major Commerce programs as part of a consolidation designed to save $8 billion over five years. Under the plan, the Economic Development Administration, Minority Business Development Agency and the Technology Administration, all of which are under Commerce Department jurisdiction, would get the ax.
It is a distinction that Commerce Department bureaucrats would be happy to avoid. The 92-year-old agency has vaulted to first place on the hit list of GOP budget-cutters in both the House and Senate. And the House bill is the first specific blueprint for dismantling a Cabinet department to emerge from this year's budget-cutting process.
"The Department of Commerce has been around since 1903. Since that time it has become the basement of the federal bureaucracy, a storage room for forgotten and misbegotten programs," declared Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.), who joined House Republicans to promote the bill.
The campaign to eliminate Commerce is part of a larger GOP effort to pull the plug on a number of federal departments, agencies and programs. Besides killing Commerce, the budget plan approved by the House last week calls for eliminating two other Cabinet departments, Energy and Education, along with 369 lesser agencies, programs and commissions. The Senate is now debating a budget plan that would eliminate Commerce, but not Energy or Education.
Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown quickly denounced the GOP proposal.