Congress not in loop on administration's reform plans

By Paul Singer, CongressDailyPM

White House officials are planning a major overhaul of the way Congress oversees federal agencies, but they seem to have briefed the press before they briefed lawmakers.

Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director Clay Johnson briefed a handful of reporters Wednesday afternoon on a series of proposals that will be included in the president's fiscal 2006 budget, including legislation to create two new commissions to oversee the shutdown or overhaul of government programs that have outlived their usefulness.

Under one proposal, federal programs would be presumed to expire after 10 years unless a commission voted to extend them.

Under the other plan, a commission would propose major overhauls of federal programs on a particular subject, and Congress would be bound to fast-track consideration of the proposals.

Johnson said he hopes Congress will see the wisdom of the plans, but he admitted that the White House had not briefed Capitol Hill on the ideas.

"We've run it by largely former members of Congress," Johnson said. "We have not run it by current leaders in Congress. We have apprised leadership that this is going to be in the budget and we will be ready to sit down and talk to them about the details prior to the time that it is ready to submit legislation."

A spokesman in the offic of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said the leader's staff has not yet been briefed, and a spokesman for the House Government Reform Committee said only, "We're still reviewing OMB's proposals."

But House Government Reform ranking member Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said what little he has heard of the plan indicates that it would "be a field day for corporate lobbyists and put our most important health and safety programs in jeopardy."