Congress set to form sunset commission to review federal programs

| Wed May 10, 2006 8:32 PM EDT

From time to time, we hear about plans to get rid certain federal agencies, such as OSHA and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Last month, however, these conversations became more than just ideas floated about; House majority leader John Boehner made a deal with the Republican Study Committee in which the RSC would vote for Bush's budget resolution, and the House would form a sunset commission to review federal agencies. The purpose of the review is to overhaul, consolidate, or eliminate a number of federal agencies. The commission will consist of eight members, to be appointed by George W. Bush or his allies in Congress. They will review federal programs every ten years.

On its face, the commission appears to be a useful entity for cutting waste in government, but given the Bush administration's history, it is reasonable to expect it to function as a tool for the removal of government regulation. There is nothing in the deal, for example, that would prohibit lobbyists from being appointed to the commission.

Bush's long-time friend, Clay Johnson, is the architect of the sunset commission. When Bush was governor of Texas, Johnson got rid of the state environmental protection agency and replaced its members with industry representatives. Critics of the plan are justifiably calling the commission a dream come true for the planners of the Reagan government. Once the commission is formed, officials of various government programs will have to "plead their case" in order to remain operative.

There are currently two bills that would advance the formation of the sunset commission. One, the Brady Bill, exempts the commission from various sunshine laws, and the Tiehrt gives the commission subpoena power.