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The Brief: Dec. 6, 2011

Bad timing threatens to spoil Gov. Rick Perry's swing through Washington this week.

Gov. Rick Perry during a stump speech to Johnson County Republicans in Tiffin, Iowa, on Oct. 7, 2011.

The Big Conversation:

Bad timing threatens to spoil Gov. Rick Perry's swing through Washington this week.

Perry will head to D.C. on Wednesday to appear at a presidential forum and meet with members of Congress, as the Tribune's Elizabeth Titus reports.

The governor won't be alone during his visit to the District. He'll also appear Wednesday at a Jewish Republican forum with several other candidates, including Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney. (In fact, as Politico notes, almost all of the candidates plan to keep clear of early states for most of the week.) The governor will speak that night at a Congressional Health Care Caucus forum, and his campaign has arranged a meeting with conservative lawmakers organized by U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C.

But Perry's D.C. visit comes just as he has sharpened his populist rhetoric while touting his plan to cut lawmakers' salaries in half and turn the legislative branch into a "part-time Congress." And some lawmakers — even a few who have endorsed Perry for president — aren't pleased.

“With all due respect to the guy I’m backing, the nation faces full-time problems, and we need a full-time Congress to deal with them,” U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Midland, told The Dallas Morning News. “That may play well to the populist voters, bashing Congress like that, but … I just respectfully disagree with him.”

John Stone, a spokesman for Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock — who has endorsed Perry — told the Tribune that such a plan needed more specificity. “What do you mean by that?” Stone said of the "part-time Congress" proposal. “Every other year? Three months at the start of each year?” Stone added, though, that the state's biennial legislature may explain why some Texas lawmakers "aren't automatically saying no" to the plan.

Perry has won the endorsements of many of the 25 Republicans in Congress from Texas, but at least 10 have yet to pick a candidate. If he's looking to woo more lawmakers to his side, he may struggle to do so wielding his trademark anti-Washington vehemence, which has long put him at odds with many federal lawmakers from Texas.

Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Republican from Clarendon who has not endorsed in the race, told the Morning News that a part-time Congress would make his life "a lot easier." But, he added, “I don’t know that’s so good for the country. … The bureaucracy doesn’t work half-time. National security is not a half-time thing.”


  • Sifting through phone records and daily schedules, The Associated Press has found that Rick Perry, in the months before announcing his presidential bid, phoned several friends and big-dollar donors who would go on to donate to his campaign or back groups like Make Us Great Again, a pro-Perry Super PAC. The AP report focuses on Perry's use of his state phones, from which the governor is prohibited from using for campaign purposes. Perry officials called the phone conservations state business.
  • A new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows Newt Gingrich with 33 percent of the vote in Iowa — a commanding lead over his closest rivals, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, both with 18 percent. Rick Perry places fourth with 11 percent. A new Winthrop University poll shows Gingrich with a similar lead in South Carolina: 38 percent to Romney's 22 percent, with Perry at 9 percent.
  • A group of four state lawmakers from Houston on Monday objected to the ongoing legislative redistricting process, saying that despite revisions to the original Republican-drawn maps, the conversation has largely avoided talk of black representation. "While we want other communities to be happy and to get the representation they deserve, African-Americans also want to have fair and equal representation," state Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, said at a news conference, according to the Houston Chronicle. Turner and his colleagues' complaints have focused on the state House maps, which they say have diluted predominantly black districts in Houston and Dallas.
  • Taxpayer-funded security costs for Rick Perry's out-of-state trips continue to mount, the San Antonio Express-News reports. In September alone, according to Department of Public Safety records, Perry's security detail racked up $397,714 in expenses for 30 trips. Perry has previously defended the use of state funds to finance his security, saying, "I’m going to be promoting Texas wherever I go."

"While those of us in the Paul camp might disagree with Newt Gingrich about whether Donald Trump is the right man to host a serious political debate, we do agree New York is a wonderful place to go at Christmas. We are sure two average Americans like Speaker Gingrich and Donald Trump will have a wonderful time picking out gifts for their wives. We suggest a place called Tiffany's, we hear it is quite nice this time of year and given their celebrity status they can probably get special deals and $500,000 lines of credit." — A senior Ron Paul campaign source to Politico in response to Newt Gingrich's defense on Monday of Donald Trump, who will moderate a Republican debate on Dec. 27 that Paul has declined to attend


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