MURRELLS INLET, S.C. — Another day, another federal agency on Rick Perry’s hit list.
This time it’s the Small Business Administration.
Perry on Tuesday during a question-and-answer session with voters at a VFW hall in Murrells Inlet made the proposal to eliminate the agency. A former small-business man told the presidential hopeful that he found the SBA — which provides loans, counseling and other assistance to small businesses — to be useless.
The governor agreed.
“I’d just do away with them,” Perry said.
The voter asked Perry about his plans for the agency because of a recent restructuring proposal announced by President Obama. The president wants to fold the functions of the SBA, the U.S. Department of Commerce and other agencies that cater to American business interests into one Cabinet-level department.
The governor had previously put the Commerce Department on the chopping block, but he has a storied past with his proposals to shut down federal agencies. He famously forgot to name all three departments he wanted to shutter during a televised debate in November.
Then last Friday, Perry abruptly put the U.S. Department of the Interior into his crosshairs, which had been widely seen as another "oops" moment. Perry was asked in a radio interview to name the three departments again, and he at first failed to mention the U.S. Department of Education and instead substituted Interior. During a speech later that day, Perry said the Interior Department, created in 1849 and charged with overseeing federal lands, should face consolidation or possibly elimination.
Perry, who briefly occupied the GOP presidential front-runner spot, is fighting an uphill battle to get voters interested in him again. There were plenty of empty chairs Tuesday morning at South Carolina’s VFW Post 10420, where perhaps 50 people listened to Perry speak and propose a five-year income tax exemption for wounded veterans.
The latest polls show Mitt Romney far out in front, leaving conservatives divided over Perry, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Texas Congressman Ron Paul and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
Thayer Joyce, a heating and air-conditioning technician, listened to Perry speak from the bar at the veterans hall. He said he was leaning toward Perry.
“I tell you what, he’s got a lot of stiff competition,” Joyce said. “I think he’ll do pretty well here in South Carolina, but I’m not too sure about the northern states.”