MANCHESTER, N.H. — Gov. Rick Perry said Wednesday that Americans would have to “browbeat” members of Congress into accepting his plan to slash their pay and limit the amount of time they spend in Washington.
“It’s up to us as citizens and a president who is not willing to just go up there and become part of that culture,” Perry told workers at a manufacturing facility in Manchester. “I need you. I need people to rise up all across this country and to say, 'You know what, Perry's got an idea here of making Congress part time that makes sense.'”
He urged voters to join him in a bid to “browbeat the members of Congress publicly” to enact the reform plan.
Perry is pitching his “Uproot and Overhaul Washington” proposal in town hall meetings Wednesday in New Hampshire, which will hold the nation’s first primary on Jan. 10. Perry continues to stage events and runs ads here even though he has become a single-digit blip in public opinion polls.
A new Bloomberg poll showed Perry at a paltry 3 percent. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was at 40 percent in the poll.
Perry spoke to a polite but somewhat skeptical audience in Manchester. Some doubted whether he could get legislation passed that would radically reform the way members of Congress conduct their business.
“They’re making the laws,” said Mark Soucy, who works as inspector at the Granite State Manufacturing facility in Manchester where Perry spoke Wednesday morning. “It’s going to be hard to push something like that through. I’d be more interested in term limits.”
Perry, the longest serving governor in Texas history (and first elected to state office in 1984) has long been opposed to term limits for elected officials. He’s also found himself targeted by criticism that he is exactly what he wants to get rid of — a career politician.
Since announcing his plan, which includes term limits for federal judges who currently get lifetime appointments, Perry is stressing that he’s never been part of the Washington establishment that he now wants to change. He would also make Congress more like a state legislature, such as Texas', meeting part time and being allowed to work like regular citizens back in their districts.
“You know, my wife and my family pretty much, I think, the dogs love me," he said. "I’m not going to Washington, D.C., to make new friends. I’m going to Washington to make a difference.”
Later, in Nashua, Perry was asked to describe his approach to paring back government bureaucracy.
"I'm going to cut with an ax, sir," Perry said.
One voter, David Sherman of New Boston, a Romney supporter, asked Perry how he expected to go toe-to-toe with Barack Obama after turning in some famously bad debate performances.
"I don't think the next Republican nominee is going to get picked on who can debate and who can't debate or who is the best debater," Perry said. "I think it's going to be decided by the American people who are really fed up with what this administration has done."
Perry said he would "relish the day" when he would get a crack at Obama.
"We’ll have a lot of debates," Perry said. "I’ll get there early and talk about the future of this country because that’s what people want to hear. Who knows how to get America back working and I’ve got the track record and the outsider of Washington, D.C., to do it. I can’t wait to get started."