White House plans merging of education and labor departments: OMB report

The White House on Thursday released its plan to merge the Departments of Education and Labor into a single Cabinet agency, moving ahead on President Trump’s “drain the swamp agenda” as his administration looks to do away with a long list of overlapping regulations and department functions.

The wide-ranging reorganization plan  was formally unveiled during the president’s cabinet meeting on Thursday by Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney. It also includes moving the federal food stamp program to the Department of Health and Human Services and restructuring the Postal Service, among other changes.

“It has been almost 100 years since somebody reorganized the government on this scale,” Mulvaney said. “No one has even tried on this scale and, more importantly, nobody has followed through with this.”

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The proposal is the result of a presidential order signed by Trump in March 2017 calling for a review of the federal government aimed at identifying redundancies and streamlining agencies. It's the latest in a long line of federal government overhaul proposals announced by administrations from both parties.

"We will develop a detailed plan to make the federal government work better, reorganizing, consolidating and eliminating where necessary," Trump said last year after signing an executive order on the reorganization. "In other words, making the federal government more efficient and very, very cost productive."

The combined Labor and Educations departments would be named The Department of Education and the Workforce (DEW) and would oversee programs for students and workers, ranging from education and developing skills to workplace protections and retirement security.

“They’re doing the same thing,” Mulvaney said. “Why not put them in the same place?”

Eliminating the Education Department has long been a goal of Republicans. President Ronald Reagan, for example, sought to eliminate the department during the 1980s but backed down amid a lack of support in Congress.

Along with that merger, the proposal also calls for the creation of a single food safety agency under the Department of Agriculture and moving the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP, from the USDA to Health and Human Services, which would be renamed the Department of Health and Public Welfare and be refocused more broadly on public assistance programs.

Housing programs run by the USDA would also move to the Department of Housing and Urban Development and certain functions of the Army Corps of Engineers would be moved to the departments of transportation and interior.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management's policy function would be moved into the Executive Office of the President, while background checks would move over to the Department of Defense.

During the cabinet meeting, Mulvaney stressed that the plan was about making the government more efficient

Despite the comprehensive plan, its potential effectiveness remains unclear as many of the changes would require approval from Congress and congressional leaders have been hesitant to adopt a plan that would eliminate federal agencies they are charged with overseeing.

Even before the plan was announced, it was met with skepticism among lawmakers and labor unions. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said members of both parties in Congress had pushed back against Trump's proposals "to drastically gut investments in education, health care, and workers — and he should expect the same result for this latest attempt to make government work worse for the people it serves."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.