A key House committee chairman is balking at introducing President-elect Jimmy Carter's government reorganization authority bill, posing a potentially serious roadblock to Carter's carrying out one of his main campaign pledges.
Chairman Jack Brooks (D-Tex.) of the House Government Operations Committee confirmed yesterday that he wants a basic change in the reorganization powers granted to past Presidents.
Under the law that lapsed in 1973 a President could reshuffle bureaucratic functions as he wished unless his reorganization plan was vetoed by a vote of the House of Senate with 60 days of its submission [WORDS ILLEGIBLE]
Brooks, who was instrumental in stripping reorganization power from President Nixon has told Carter the new authority should allow reorganization plans to take effect only when affirmatively approved by both houses of Congress.
Brooks said yesterday the difference in procedure "doesn't amount to that much." But Frank Moore, Carter's congressional liaison chief, said, "Jack's pretty adamant, and Jimmy's pretty adamant. He doesn't want to introduce our bill and we don't want to accept his."
Brooks is in a strategic position because his Government Operations Committee must originate the reorganization authority and hold hearings on specific reorganization plans. The authority, granted to all Presidents since 1949, was allowed to lapse in 1973, during the height of Nixon's dispute with the Democratic Congress.
But informed sources said it was not clear how strong a hand Brooks will hold if it comes to a showdown with the new President.
Carter made reorganization of the executive branch a principal plank of his campaign, and Stuart Eizenstat, his domestic affairs assistant, said earlier this week the reorganization authority bill will go to Congress by Feb. 3.
Chairman Abraham A. Ribicoff (D-Conn.) of the Senate Government Operations Committee is planning hearings on the measure the same week, and is reported to have "no problems" with the congressional veto procedure favored by Carter.
Members of the House Democratic leadership and retiring Democratic National Chairman Robert S. Strauss, Brooks' fellow Texan, were also reported by Moore to be "working with us" is reversing or circumventing Brooks' objections.
The ranking Republican on the House Government Operations Committee, Rep. Frank Horton of New York, said yesterday he had not been consulted on Brooks' plan and favored giving Carter the same reorganization authority previous presidents had enjoyed.
Horton said Brooks' plan "would make it a tougher" for a President to reshuffle the bureaucracy, by requiring affirmative action from Congress rather than letting the reorganization plan become effective automatically unless vetoed within 60 days by the House or Senate.
Other congressional sources said Carter has been advised he can probably win his fight on the floor of the House, even if Brooks prevails with his plan in committee. But the Texas Democrat has a reputation as a tough legislative battler and the administration is seeking to avoid a public showdown with him at the outset of Carter's term.
Brooks said he had two objections to restoring the old procedure. He said that while the issue has not yet been resolved in the courts, "there is at least a possibility that the one-house veto will be found unconstitutional." He also said the "resolution of disapproval" required by the old procedure was "unnatural, awkward and confusing," whereas his recommended procedure "will make Congress a full partner in carrying out its constitutional role."
Moore said that when Brooks upveiled his plan at a meeting with Carter and Thomas B. (Bert) Lance, the incoming head of the Office of Management and Budget, in Plains, Ga., two weeks ago, Carter expressed concern that his reorganization plans might just be bottled up in committee.
Brooks said his plan would "guarantee a timely vote," by "automatically discharging the plan from committee after 45 days," and allowing any member of Congress to call it up for a floor vote.
Moore said that was an improvement from Carter's point of view, "but we would still prefer to have it the way it was for all the other presidents."
If the reorganization authority is restored to Carter, it will alow him to reshuffle functions within departments and agencies, but not to create or abolish departments. Creation of a unified energy department, another of Carter's priority goals, will require legislation to be passed by Congress in the normal manner.