- The Washington Times - Monday, July 20, 2015

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush cast himself as a political outsider Monday and vowed to “disrupt” the Washington, D.C., establishment by reining in federal spending and pushing for items such as a six-year lobbying ban on former members of Congress.

“For anyone who wants to see a federal government even bigger, and even further removed from those that it’s supposed to serve, the other party will be offering that option,” Mr. Bush said in a speech at Florida State University in Tallahassee. “As for me, I’m offering a different agenda altogether. It will be my intention not to preside over the establishment, but in every way I know to disrupt that establishment and make it more accountable for the people.”

Mr. Bush, a 2016 GOP presidential candidate, laced his address with references to his own status as a political outsider in Florida’s capital and with criticism of what he described as a federal government plagued by runaway spending. He said he would urge Congress to submit a balanced budget amendment to the states and also called for a freeze on federal hiring and an overhaul of government procurement practices.

“I wasn’t a member of the club, and that made all the difference,” Mr. Bush said of his time as governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007. “Should I win this election, you won’t find me deferring to the ways of ‘Mount Washington.’ “

He said much of the employment practices in the federal government are a “relic” from the Carter administration — but cautioned against pointing fingers.

“And let’s just say, they didn’t have the taxpayers’ interest foremost in mind,” he said. “It’s not a partisan issue, by the way — we have structural deficits now that we have to address. It doesn’t matter who’s the cause of all this — it’s time to reform all of these things to make government smaller so that we can rise up as a nation again.”

Some conservatives have criticized the administration of his brother, former President George W. Bush, for federal spending levels during the mid-2000s and have cast a wary eye at the record on taxes of his father, former President George H.W. Bush.

But as he has in the past, the former Florida governor emphasized his own record on spending matters, recalling his nickname of “Veto Corleone” and saying that he vetoed more than 2,500 spending items totaling more than $2 billion as governor.

Mr. Bush also said the recent security breach at the federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM) was a tipping point for the federal government.

“Ineptitude of this order is enough to sound the alarm all by itself. But … when there’s no accountability and few even expect it anymore, that’s when we really need to worry,” he said.

“It has come to the point with the current administration, and with the entire Washington establishment that it so perfectly represents, that it’s now like Alfred E. Neuman — ‘What, me worry?’ — it’s always someone else’s fault,” Mr. Bush said, referring to the Mad Magazine mascot. “And that result is that we have a challenge in our country today that more and more people don’t believe that their government works for them.”

As other remedies, Mr. Bush also called for a six-year ban on lobbying for former members of Congress and said that members’ meetings with lobbyists should be reported publicly every week.

Mr. Bush also managed to work in some indirect jabs at his rivals in the presidential race.

He complimented the efforts of Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas and Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the Republican chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services committees, respectively, to reform the defense procurement process, calling Mr. McCain “a real hero, by the way” — an apparent reference to businessman and 2016 Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s recent comments about the Arizona senator.

Mr. Bush also said that members of Congress at times seem to regard attendance and voting as optional.

“If it’s an incentive they need, how about the one that pretty much every worker in America has in their job: you don’t show up, you don’t get paid for the time that you miss,” he said, drawing applause.

Four current U.S. senators — Ted Cruz of Texas, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida — are also candidates in the race for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

A bill to dock the pay “of absentee members might not pass the House or Senate — I don’t know, maybe it could — but at least it would get them all there for a vote,” Mr. Bush said.

“If we can’t always get them on the job, let’s at least get them on the record,” he said.

Mr. Bush also said that in the coming months, he will be offering his plans for “tax and regulatory reform on a scale we haven’t seen since the Reagan years, and I will be outlining my ideas to reform the major entitlement programs and provide a replacement for Obamacare.”

Democrats criticized the speech, saying Mr. Bush’s rhetoric doesn’t match his results.

“What we have seen from Jeb Bush before, we will see again — greater income inequality, sky-high debt, allegiances to lobbyists and a failed economic agenda that benefits the wealthy,” said Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Christina Freundlich. “Bush may have an elevated sense of his record here — but those who are paying attention know better.”

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