As the White House explained this morning, there are currently six major federal departments or agencies that focus on business and/or trade: the U.S. Department of Commerce’s core business and trade functions, the Small Business Administration, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.

I actually looked into this a while back, trying to identify the discernable nuances in responsibilities between all of these offices — and I had some trouble.

With that in mind, President Obama unveiled a new effort this morning to streamline government and merge all of these entities into one department, reducing the bureaucracy and saving money.

President Obama asked Congress on Friday for the power to consolidate parts of the federal government, proposing a first step of merging several trade- and commerce-related agencies under a plan that the White House said could eliminate more than 1,000 jobs and save $3 billion over 10 years.

Obama said he would focus initially on entities that deal with small business, but ultimately would like to get rid of inefficiencies throughout the federal government. He noted to an audience of small business leaders that the bureaucracy included five different entities involved in housing, and more than a dozen agencies that regulate food safety.

“No business or non-profit leader would allow this kind of duplication or unnecessary complexity in their operations,” Obama said. “…So why is it okay in our government? It’s not. It has to change.”

Though we’re talking about executive-branch agencies, the streamlining effort will need congressional approval.

This is the kind of initiative that should be right up Republicans’ alley, right? The kind of effort they’d applaud enthusiastically? Well, no, at least not yet.

Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, sends over a lukewarm response to President Obama’s proposal to consolidate Commerce Department agencies. “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,” Buck said. “…We hope the President isn’t simply proposing new packaging for the same burdensome approach. However, eliminating duplicative programs and making the federal government more simple, streamlined, and business-friendly is always an idea worth exploring. We look forward to hearing more about his proposal.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) office also used the opportunity to complain about “presiding over one of the largest expansions of government in history” — a claim that’s largely imaginary — even when Obama is trying to eliminate redundancies.

I’ll look forward to the fight on Capitol Hill of Republicans resisting the Democratic White House’s effort to make Washington more efficient and cost-effective.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.