BETTENDORF, Iowa — Slashing salaries for the president and members of Congress and freezing all pending federal regulations are part of a far-reaching plan detailed Tuesday by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who says that’s what’s needed to give Washington a “complete overhaul.”
Perry, seeking to regain traction in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, also vowed to cut congressional staffs, end lifetime appointments of federal judges and dismantle “wasteful, redundant federal agencies,” including the departments of Commerce, Education and Energy.
“It’s time to tear down the monuments of bureaucratic failure,” Perry declared as he unveiled his plan at a Bettendorf manufacturing plant that sits at the edge of the Mississippi River in eastern Iowa.
The Texas governor visited the Hawkeye State on Monday and Tuesday as part of his effort to shore up his political base in advance of the critical Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses.
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A strong showing then is critical for Perry to climb back into the race. The Texas governor enjoyed a brief stint as the Republican front-runner after entering the race in mid-August, but he has since slipped into single digits in polls after a series of stumbles in Republican debates.
There were no mentions of Perry’s infamous “oops” moment in a debate in Rochester, Mich., last week as he called for shuttering the Commerce, Education and Energy departments, which have a combined annual budget of more than $100 billion, as part of his “Uproot and Overhaul Washington” plan.
Perry committed what has been described as one of the worst gaffes in debate history when he was unable to remember the Energy Department as one of the three agencies he wants to eliminate.
Perry would leave no corner of the Washington establishment untouched as he pledged to transform and shrink the federal government, which has long been one of his favorite targets during his nearly 11-year tenure as governor. He promised a full audit of the government and promised to cut “wasteful spending” at the Defense Department in order to spend more money for combat forces.
He would require all federal agencies “to justify every dime of federal spending every year.”
Playing on the nation’s dim views of the performance of Congress and the White House, he called for a freeze on federal salaries until the budget is balanced. He said he also would cut the current $400,000 presidential salary in half until that goal is reached.
He also would halve the current $174,000 annual salaries for members of Congress not in leadership positions. He envisions a part-time Congress, in which members are encouraged to spend more time at home in their districts and work “real jobs” outside of the Capitol.
“Congress is out of touch because congressmen are overpaid, overstaffed and away from home too much,” Perry said.
The Texas governor also reiterated his call to make it a crime for members of Congress to use insider information they gain about businesses and regulatory affairs to enhance their stock portfolios.
Regarding the judiciary, Perry wants to end lifetime appointments of federal judges and would seek 18-year terms for Supreme Court justices. Both would require amending the Constitution.
That proposal underscores the Texas governor’s role as a Washington outsider who wants to shrink the federal government.
“Unique to the Republican field, I have never been an establishment figure, have never served in Congress or part of an administration and have never been a paid lobbyist,” Perry said. “My career has been that of a Washington outsider.”
An outsider is exactly what it will take to transform government, he declared.
“I do not believe Washington needs a new coat of paint, it needs a complete overhaul,” Perry said. “We need to uproot, tear down and rebuild Washington, D.C., and our federal institutions.”
(Dave Montgomery is the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Austin bureau chief.)
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