- Obama wants to elevate Small Business Administration
- Republicans question if move would help U.S. businesses
- State of the Union is later this month
In his weekly address Saturday, President Barack Obama encouraged congressional leaders to grant him executive branch reorganization powers.
The president, echoing comments he made Friday, said he would replace the Commerce Department, rearrange lower-tier agencies and elevate the Small Business Administration to a Cabinet-level post.
"These changes will make it easier for small business owners to get the loans and support they need to sell their products around the world," he said. "For example, instead of forcing small business owners to navigate the six departments and agencies in the federal government that focus on business and trade, we'll have one department."
With the November elections around the corner, Republicans are skeptical of the proposal.
"Given the president's record of growing government, we're interested to learn whether this proposal represents actual relief for American businesses or just the appearance of it," a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said on Friday.
The president pledged to limit reforms to those developing "more efficiency, better service and a leaner government," and simultaneously previewed tax code changes he debuted this week at the White House.
"I will put forward new tax proposals that reward companies that choose to do the right thing by bringing jobs home and investing in America -- and eliminate tax breaks for companies that move jobs overseas," he said.
Meanwhile, urging job creation on a different front, North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven called on the White House to pave the way for construction of a controversial oil pipeline, arguing an economic and job creation case.
"This new $7 billion, 1,700-mile, high-tech transcontinental pipeline, the largest shovel-ready project in the country, would reduce our dependence on Middle East oil, help keep down the cost of energy for American consumers and businesses, and create thousands of jobs for American workers at a time when our nation so greatly needs them," he said in the GOP weekly address.
In December, Congress started a 60-day window for the Obama administration to either approve or deny the Canada-to-Gulf Coast oil pipeline. The project is generally opposed by environmentalists and favored by Republicans. The State Department says it needs more time to consider the environmental impact.
The battle lines of this week's addresses may preview those which drive Washington this month, as Congress returns from holiday recess and the president delivers his State of the Union address on Jan. 24.