Perry Takes Aim at Congress, Courts

Gov. Rick Perry and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback in Bettendorf, Iowa, for Perry's government reform speech.
Gov. Rick Perry and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback in Bettendorf, Iowa, for Perry's government reform speech.

Updated 11:20 a.m. CST: Gov. Rick Perry laid out his "Uproot and Overhaul Washington" plan Tuesday morning in Bettendorf, Iowa. Perry wants to end lifetime appointments for the federal judiciary and advocates 18-year term limits for members of the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Too many federal judges rule with impunity from the bench, and those who legislate from the bench shouldn’t be entitled to a lifetime appointment to the judiciary,'' the governor said.

Perry is also calling for the re-privatization of airport security, which would take the process of passenger screening back to the pre-9/11 era. The Texas governor is also promising a restructuring of the "behemoth" Homeland Security department.

The centerpiece of Perry's plan: turning Congress into something more like the Texas Legislature — a part-time citizen body that, as he put it, would have to live under the laws it passes.

"It is time to create a part time Congress where their pay is cut in half, their offices budgets are cut in half, and their time in Washington is cut in half," Perry said.

"This is the season for tearing down and rebuilding again, for uprooting the broken branches of government in Washington, building a new government that is smaller, more humble, so America can be stronger and freer again.”

Original story:

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.

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