Perry: Term-limit judges, make Congress a part-time job
Updated 3:59 p.m. Eastern Time
BETTENDORF, Iowa - If elected president, Texas Gov. Rick Perry promised "uproot" the federal government Tuesday, unveiling a range of sweeping reforms that include term limits for federal judges and Supreme Court justices, a part-time Congress, and laws criminalizing insider trading among legislators.
Quoting from the Bible, Perry said in his speech to workers at the Schebler Manufacturing Facility, "There is a time to plant and a time to uproot, there is a time to tear down and there is a time to build."
Perry pledged to limit future federal judges to 18 years of service to prevent them from being able to "rule with impunity from the bench." In Perry's Washington, members of Congress would receive half the pay and half the office budgets they currently have to encourage creation of a part-time legislative branch. Perry threatens to halve their pay again if they fail to balance the federal budget by 2020.
"Congress is out of touch because Congressmen are overpaid, over-staffed and away from home too much. American has had enough of that," Perry said.
Federal workers would suffer a similar, if less severe fate: Their salaries would be halved until the budget is balanced.
Perry's plan seems destined to remain largely what it is -- a campaign promise. His radical overhaul of Congress and the judiciary would need approval from Congress, a body hardly inclined to curb its own powers. The Perry plan would face staunch opposition from both parties, including Republicans and especially House Republicans if they retain control of their majority in 2012. But it may succeed in one way: scoring political points for Perry with tea party voters destined to have an impact on the outcome next year.
In a web video preview of Perry's plan released Monday, he also proposed to criminalize insider trading by members of Congress after the CBS News program 60 Minutes on Sunday aired a segment examining whether lawmakers engage in insider trading by using information from pending legislation to guide their investment decisions.
From 60 Minutes: Congress: Trading stock on inside information?
"Perry says he will also "change the spending culture in Congress" in part by ending bank bailouts and spending earmarks and also by privatizing government-supported mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Perry's plan also calls for eliminating the departments of Commerce, Education and Energy, downsizing and remaking the Environmental Protection Agency, restructuring the Department of Homeland Security, and ending the Transportation Security Administration's " harassment of law-abiding travelers" by returning control of the agency to the private sector.
"It is time to tear down the monuments to bureaucratic failure, and in their place build a smaller, more efficient federal government that puts the American people first," the governor said.
In recent weeks on the stump, Perry has pledged to take a "sledgehammer" to the ways of Washington, rhetoric with appeal among tea party voters. He has also sought to portray his campaign as that of a Washington outsider in order to capitalize on the historically low approval ratings of Congress.
But Perry's own commitment to cutting spending was tested in the question and answer session after his speech. Asked by one questioner about the space program, Perry said cuts to NASA had been "ill thought out" because of the industry's many innovations. The Johnson Space Center in Houston has been a major source of jobs and profitability for Perry's home state.
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