Blasting the congressional “creatures of Washington” for being overpaid and detached from the struggles of the people outside the Beltway, Texas Gov. and GOP presidential hopeful Rick Perry vowed Tuesday to eliminate federal agencies, set term limits for federal judges and push for a part-time Congress where both members’ pay and office budgets are sliced in half.
The three-term governor, speaking on a campaign swing in Bettendorf, Iowa, said he would lead by example by cutting his salary as president until the federal budget is balanced, and said that lawmakers who use information to profit from stock trades should go to jail — in what appeared to be a clear reference to recent news reports alleging insider trading involving House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
“I do not believe Washington needs a new coat of paint, it needs a complete overhaul,” Mr. Perry said, according to prepared remarks. “We need to uproot, tear down and rebuild Washington, D.C. and our federal institutions.”
Mr. Perry cast himself as an “outsider” and suggested that, after spending his political career outside Washington, he is the best-equipped candidate in the GOP field to give Washington a makeover.
“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,” Mr. Perry said. “My career has been that of a Washington outsider.”
Mr. Perry promoted some of the key points of the sweeping economic plan that he laid out last month, which would give taxpayers the option of paying a flat 20 percent income tax, balance the budget by 2020, and cap federal spending at levels not seen since 1966. The plan also called for a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.
Mr. Perry also said he would end lifetime federal appointments to the bench — capping the term of service at 18 years for Supreme Court justices. He also vowed to end bailouts of banks and funding for Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading provider of abortions. Tax increases, he said, should require a two-thirds majority vote in Congress, while the salaries of federal workforce — except military and law-enforcement employees — should be frozen.
Housing finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would be privatized, Mr. Perry vowed, and congressional salaries would be sliced in half — or more, if lawmakers fail to balance the federal by budget by the end of this decade.
“We have a lot of well-intentioned members of Congress,” Mr. Perry said, “but they have become creatures of Washington. They get paid more than three times the average American family, and they have doubled their own budgets in the last decade. They are completely detached from the people, who are struggling to get by and can’t vote to raise their own pay.”
Mr. Perry is looking to regain some ground in the Republican nomination race after some poorly-reviewed debate performances, including his recent “brain freeze” at a debate in Michigan, where he could not remember the third of three Cabinet agencies that he planned to eliminate.