ON THE OPPOSITE page today, House Government Operations Committee Chairman Jack Brooks (D-Texas) takes exception to a recent editorial that criticized his opposition to the executive-reorganization law President Carter seeks. We welcome Mr. Brooks' arguments for the reorganization process he prefers, just as we welcomed the recent news that he plans to open hearing on the subject on March 1.
We are especially glad to see that Mr. Brooks is playing down one idea that had loomed larger in his earlier statements. That is the notion that the reorganization procedure in effect until 1973 contributed in some fashion to the Watergate abuses and illegalities. To find the fallacy in this argument you need only examine the one Watergate "connection" he cites - that two of the more prominent Watergate conspirators, John Ehrlichman and Egil Krogh Jr., were on the staff of the Domestic Council, which was created by a reorganization plan in 1970. While that is true, it is utterly irrelevant. They could have performed the same roles for Mr. Nixon in the Watergate affair while holding any of a number of equally influential posts unrelated to the 1970 reorganization plan - as did H. R. Haldeman, Charles Colson, John Mitchell and others in the Watergate crew.
Mr. Brooks' broader and more substantial concern involves, in his words, "our constitutional form of goernment, with its separation of powers, its checks and balances and its representative government." He agrees with Mr. Carter that Congress should grant the President some statutory power to reorganize agencies. He disagrees about what kind of check Congress should have over the President 's specific uses of that delegated power. Under Mr. Carter's approach, reorganization plans would take effect unless disapproved by either house of Congress within 60 days. Under the Brooks bill, plans would die unless approved by both House and Senate within 60 days.
It is significant that neither proposal treats executive and legislative power as totally, rigidly separated by an impenetrable wall. Both fall into that middle ground of great consitutional and political complexity in which, over the years, a large variety of accomodations between the two branches of government has evolved. What is at issue here, in short, is not so much a matter of principle as it is a matter of degree. In our view, the time-tested approach favored by Mr. Carter does give Congress sufficient chance to exercise a check over the President's restructuring of agencies. The real question, though, is how much authority over this aspect of federal management a majority of this Congress wants to wield. We hope that Mr. Brooks will invite an answer from his collegues by bringing the issue promptly to the House floor.