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The Brief: Nov. 16, 2011

In Gov. Rick Perry's grand plan to take a sledgehammer to Washington, some see a few holes.

Gov. Rick Perry speaking to Johnson County Republicans in Tiffin, Iowa, on Oct. 7, 2011.

The Big Conversation:

In Gov. Rick Perry's grand plan to take a sledgehammer to Washington, some see a few holes.

On Tuesday, Perry unveiled his latest policy-driven attempt at a campaign reboot: a sweeping government-reform proposal calling for a "part-time, citizen Congress," an end to lifetime appointments for federal judges and the elimination of three federal agencies.

"This is the season for tearing down and rebuilding again," Perry told an audience in Bettendorf, Iowa, "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."

The proposal also calls for 18-year term limits for members of the U.S. Supreme Court, a two-thirds vote requirement in Congress for any tax increase and the criminalization of insider trading by members of Congress — a practice that 60 Minutes recently exposed.

But critics say Perry's plan faces long odds — and runs up against elements of the governor's past that stand in opposition to his proposal. Perry, for instance, wants to jail lawmakers who use "insider knowledge to profit in the stock market," but as the Tribune's Emily Ramshaw and Thanh Tan report today, critics say similar such personal and political relationships have helped Perry profit financially in Texas. And though Perry's plans for a part-time Congress — modeled after the biennial Texas Legislature — include halving members' salaries, NBC News notes that as a Democrat in the Texas House in the late 1980s, Perry worked to up members' pay.

One member of Congress, Rep. Michael Burgess, a Lewisville Republican who has endorsed Newt Gingrich, took issue with Perry's plan. “With all due respect, Gov. Perry hasn’t served in Congress,” Burgess told a Dallas TV station, according to The Dallas Morning News. “This isn’t his area of expertise.”

And as The Des Moines Register notes, several of Perry's proposals would require either a constitutional amendment or dramatic congressional action. Congress, for example, would have to change its own rules about how frequently members meet and how much money they make. Changing judicial term limits would likely require a constitutional amendment.


  • U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann has become the first Republican presidential candidate to take direct aim at Rick Perry for his infamous debate gaffe. A new Bachmann ad titled "No Surprises 2012," which hits virtually all of the congresswoman's Republican rivals for inconsistencies in their records, includes footage of Perry's "oops moment," as well as a knock against the governor for supporting a bill granting in-state tuition to the children of illegal immigrants.
  • As the Tribune's Ross Ramsey reports in this week's Campaign Roundup, the battle for endorsements in the 2012 U.S. Senate race is heating up. Though former Solicitor General Ted Cruz has received the nods of Tea Party groups like FreedomWorks, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst this week won the support of Texas Right to Life PAC, and endorsements from similar groups may soon follow. Cruz, though, won the endorsement of James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family.
  • The Austin American-Statesman reported Tuesday that construction on Austin's Formula One circuit was halted over a dispute between investors and the promoter about rights to the race. Earlier in the day, state Comptroller Susan Combs announced that the project would not receive any of the $25 million a year in state financial incentives it had been promised until after the first F1 race is held next November. Combs, who has promoted F1 as an economic boon for the state and Austin, cited, among other concerns, plans to construct a track in New Jersey, which she said would hurt the appeal of the race in Texas.

“It is an ‘Animal House.’ It’s a food fight. Honestly, the Republican debates have become a reality show. People have to be perceived as being capable of governing this country, of being the leader of the free world.”Kenneth Duberstein, a chief of staff to President Ronald Reagan, to The New York Times on the series of gaffes and misstatements in the Republican presidential field, which some worry may rub off on the party itself


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