President Carter's request for power to fulfill his campaign pledge to reorganize the "bloated bureaucracy" into more effective government neared enactment yesterday.
By a vote of 395 to 22, the House passed a bill giving him reorganization authority subject to a veto by either house of Congress.It is very similar to one passed earlier this month by the Senate 92 to 0. Final congressional approval could come this week if thge Senate agrees to accept the slightly different House version and avoid a conference between the two houses.
The bill permits the President to prepare reorganization plans that would take effect 60 days after submission unless disapproved by a majority of either house of Congress.
The President could not create a Cabinet-level department by reorganization; this is why he has requested separate legislation creating a Department of Energy. Nor could he abolish or transfer an independent regulatory agency. But within those limits the President could draw plans to combine, divide or otherwise shuffle agencies around to make them work better.
This formula for reorganization authority, which was given to every President since Herbert Hoover until Congress let it lapse after Watergate surfaced in Richard M. Nixi let it lapse after Watergate surfaced in Richard M. Nixon's second term, has been opposed by Rep. Jack Brooks (D.-Tex.), who handled the bill as chairman of the Government Operations Committee.
Brooks argued that, since the Constitution vested all legistlative power in Congress, it would be unconstitutional to reverse that process and let the President legislate subject to a congressional veto.
But he couldn't muster the votes to support his argument and finally accepted the Carter formula, after his comnmitted added the provision that assures both houses an opportunity to vote. No reorganization plan could be put into effect without a vote by being bottled up in committee, as was the congressional pay raise last month. The Senate bill contains a similiar provision.
The House rejected, 329 to 87, an attempt by Rep. Robert S. Walker (R-Pa.) to substitute Brooks's original bill permitting reorganization plans to take effect only after approval by both houses.
Both House and Senate bills would permit the President to change his proposed plans to meet any objections within 30 days of submission. Congress could not amend them, as it can regular legislation, but could only vote a plan up or down. Both bills also require that each plan deal with only one "logically consistent" subject. One plan could not deal both with the Agriculture and Defence departments, for example.
The House bill, but not the Senate's, limits to three the number of plans that can be pending before Congress at any one time. This is the Prin*cipal difference between the bills.