Ron DeSantis says he would eliminate 4 federal agencies if elected president

Updated

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday that if he is elected president he would seek to close four federal agencies as part of an effort to reduce the size of government.

"We would do Education, we would do Commerce, we'd do Energy, and we would do IRS," DeSantis said in an interview with Fox News’ Martha MacCallum when he was asked whether he favored closing any agencies.

"If Congress will work with me on doing that, we'll be able to reduce the size and scope of government," he added. "If Congress won't go that far, I'm going to use those agencies to push back against woke ideology and against the leftism that we see creeping into all institutions of American life."

DeSantis’ campaign didn't immediately respond to a request for further details about his remarks.

DeSantis has sought to distinguish himself from Republican front-runner Donald Trump, in part by moving further to the right of the former president on a variety of issues. On Tuesday, he issued an unexpected veto, rejecting a criminal justice reform bill that had received substantial bipartisan support in the Republican-led state Legislature.

Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a town hall event in Hollis, N.H., Tuesday, June 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)
Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a town hall event in Hollis, N.H., Tuesday, June 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

While Trump hasn't said he would try to eliminate the Education Department if he is elected in 2024, he has proposed eliminating federal funding for “any school or program pushing critical race theory, gender ideology or other inappropriate racial, sexual or political content onto our children.”

"We need to fundamentally re-constitutionalize the government," DeSantis said Wednesday. "We talked about draining the swamp in 2016; that didn’t happen. I think the better analogy is breaking the swamp."

It wasn't the first time DeSantis has floated the idea of doing away with the IRS, a frequent target of Republicans. On “The Dana Show" last month, DeSantis called the IRS a "corrupt organization" when radio host Dana Loesch asked him whether he would sign a measure to abolish the agency.

“The answer is yes," DeSantis said at the time. "We need something totally different."

Asked how he would replace the existing tax structure, DeSantis said he has “supported all of the single-rate proposals," referring to a flat tax.

"I would be welcoming to take this tax system, chuck it out the window and do something that’s more favorable to the average folks,” he said.

The IRS, which is overseen by the Treasury Department, has cut close to 20% of its staff since 2010. The debt ceiling deal eliminated $1.4 billion in IRS funding and redirected roughly $20 billion of the $80 billion provided to the agency through the Inflation Reduction Act to nondefense funds.

In the current fiscal year, the budgets for the Commerce, Energy and Education departments were $109 billion, $160 billion and $194 billion, respectively, according to government spending data.

DeSantis isn't the first GOP presidential candidate in recent election cycles to have called for abolishing federal agencies.

In 2011, then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry said at a primary debate that he would eliminate three federal agencies, but he couldn’t remember the Energy Department after he named the two others: Commerce and Education. He later was energy secretary in the Trump administration.

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