Perry Takes Aim at Congress, Courts
By Jay Root, Texas Tribune
BETTENDORF, Iowa — Gov. Rick Perry is proposing to bring a little Texas to Washington — with a “part-time citizen Congress” that doesn’t meet so often, and whose members earn only half of what they make now.
The Republican presidential hopeful will also call for an end to lifetime appointments for federal judges, including members of the U.S. Supreme Court. And, as he proposed in his famous debate-night flub last week, Perry will vow to shut down three agencies of government.
This time he will remember all three: the U.S. Departments of Education, Commerce and Energy.
“Washington doesn’t need a new coat of paint,” Perry told Iowa Republicans Monday night in advance of the policy proposal. “It needs a complete overhaul.”
The initiative will portray Washington as the impediment to a thriving, free-market based economy. According to a summary of the reform proposal, Perry will say that members of Congress should face criminal penalties for insider trading, a controversial practice highlighted in a recent investigation by CBS’s 60 Minutes. He would also subject members of Congress to the Freedom of Information Act, from which they have remained exempt for decades.
The Texas governor is taking inspiration from his home state — where the Legislature meets in regular session for five months every two years. He is proposing that Congress cut back on the number of gatherings and allow members to work outside jobs — in turn slashing their pay in half. Members of Congress currently earn $174,000 a year.
In Texas, legislators make $7,200 a year, not counting per diem pay during sessions.
“I’m going to put forward some very dramatic reforms for a Congress that not only spends too much but is in Washington too much,” Perry said.
Perry is unveiling the proposal in first-test Iowa, which begins the delegate-awarding process with its caucuses on Jan. 3. Perry, once the GOP front-runner, needs to get his campaign back on track here to be taken seriously again.
Perry shot himself in both feet in the Nov. 9 televised debate in Michigan, where he couldn’t remember all three federal departments he wanted to shut down. Perry has since made the famous flub a re-occurring joke on the campaign trail, and he generally gets hearty applause and laughter when he does it.
On Monday night, Perry faulted Washington for proposing to “just add a new agency” to government in order to solve the nation’s problems.
“And I can remember most of them,” he joked.
While Perry is promising to wipe out some agencies, many of the tasks they carry out would live on in other corners of the federal bureaucracy — functions like weather monitoring, the U.S. Census and oversight of nuclear weapons. The governor will propose consolidating those functions in other agencies.