Al Kamen
Al Kamen
In the Loop

Obama’s unfinished ‘business’

With all the talk of Cabinet posts and who’s getting what job in a second Obama term, the one job nobody seems to be angling for is “secretary of business.”

That’s the post that President Obama suggested during the campaign — actually, it wasn’t a new plan, but rather a catchy label affixed to a plan he proposed earlier in the year consolidating six agencies with jurisdiction over business into one.

Al Kamen

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. He began his reporting career at the Rocky Mountain News and joined The Post in 1980. He has covered local and federal courts, the Supreme Court and the State Department. Follow him on Twitter.

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During the campaign, the proposal was widely mocked, and now it looks to be resting comfortably on the proverbial back burner.

Many who would be involved in such an overhaul — folks on the Hill, at some of the potentially affected agencies, and at outside business groups — say they’ve heard little about the consolidation plan, even after Obama revived it on the campaign trail.

“We didn’t even pan it at the time,” said one House Republican aide. “We took the attitude of ‘Well, let’s hear what you have to say,’ and nothing has come of it.”

In Obama’s plan, which he outlined in an East Room event in January, Obama said he wanted Congress to pass legislation reinstating a president’s authority to make changes to the executive branch — which now require congressional approval. The plan would combine a number of smaller agencies (including the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Small Business Administration, the Import-Export Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corp. and the Trade and Development Agency) into one.

Afterward, Sens. Mark Warner and Joe Lieberman introduced legislation to that effect in the Senate, Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.) did so in the House, and Lieberman’s Homeland Security and Government Reform Committee held a hearing on the proposal.

But nearly a year later, there’s been no movement — neither chamber has indicated it plans to take it up, and there’s been little pressure from the White House.

Don’t stick a fork in it just yet, though.

White House spokesman Jay Carney indicated to reporters the week before the election that the streamlining proposal would be one of Obama’s first orders of business. “The president will be engaging directly after the election in moving forward,” he said, adding that he was “very committed to that proposal.”

At the moment, Obama has more pressing priorities at hand — say, dealing with the “fiscal cliff” and filling his second-term Cabinet — than nudging Congress on this and expending some serious time and political capital.

Another item for the to-do list, it seems.

Popular victories

The counting of the presidential popular vote is just about over, and Cook Political Report guru David Wasserman has President Obama with 50.97 percent of the tally.

Wasserman says a small number of votes remain to be counted, but if we’re going to get T-shirts out to contest winners in time for Christmas, we’ve got to stop now (kind of like the Supreme Court in 2000).

So here are the winners of the In The Loop election contest, popular-vote division — ties broken by time of entry.

1. Emil Marcus, a teacher from Matawan, N.J., was 0.03 percentage points off. Marcus predicted on Sept. 11 that Obama would win 51 percent of the vote.

2. Matthew Thomas, a restaurateur from Fredericksburg, predicted 51 percent the next afternoon.

3. Martha Steinbock, a retiree from Silver Spring, was the third person to enter with the same percentage.

4. Stuart Davis, a retired teacher from Arlington — and winner of the electoral-vote portion of the contest — is a winner again with his entry of 51 percent.

Three people predicted a lower vote than Obama got, but only by 0.07 points:

5. William Bennett, not the former education secretary but a Washington lawyer, predicted Obama would get 50.9 percent of the popular vote.

6. Frank W. Krogh, a lawyer from Arlington, entered the same number.

7. Walter Smith of the District, the executive director of a nonprofit advocacy organization. also was in that winning category.

8. Henry Resnikoff of Essex, Conn., was next, predicting Obama would garner 51.06 percent of the vote, so he was just 0.09 points off.

A number of Loop Fans predicted Obama would win 51.1 percent of the vote — 0.14 points too high. The first in with those guesses were:

9. Michael G. Pilot, a retired economist from Arlington.

10. Joe Foley of Potomac, who runs a lobbying and public affairs firm.

In addition to an official In the Loop T-shirt, the winners can also note that their predictions were closer than the formidable statistician and blogger Nate Silver’s 50.8 percent prediction.

Imported from Detroit

By definition, most congressional staffers are insiders. One new hire, though, already had such status even before landing the job — as in, he’s been inside (you know, in the clink, up the river, in the pokey, etc.).

Kandia Milton, a new addition to the staff of Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), spent a year in the pen after being convicted in a bribery scheme when he was on the staff of Kwame Kilpatrick (D), then the mayor of Detroit.

Milton, who pleaded guilty to accepting kickbacks for greasing the wheels for a sale of city property when he was Kilpatrick’s deputy, is now a congressional liaison for Peters making $42,900 a year, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Kilpatrick, of course, went to prison after a scandal-packed tenure that included an affair with his chief of staff, allegations of strippers in the mayor’s residence, and various flavors of corruption.

Peters, though, was willing to give Milton a break. “Congressman Peters believes that individuals who acknowledge their mistakes, pay their debt to society and make a real commitment to doing the right thing going forward deserve a second chance,” his spokesman, Jared Smith, told the Loop.

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop
. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

 
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