In a major reboot of his flagging campaign, Rick Perry is releasing a far-reaching government reform plan that would radically transform Congress and the Supreme Court at a structural level.
"I do not believe Washington needs a new coat of paint, it needs a complete overhaul," prepared remarks of Perry's speech in Iowa debuting his new proposals read. "We need to uproot, tear down and rebuild Washington, D.C. and our federal institutions. We should apply the wisdom of Solomon to Washington. Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3, says, ‘there is a time to plant and a time to uproot, there is a time to tear down and a time to build.'"
Perry is proposing halving Congressional salary and turning members into part-time ‘Citizen Legislators' who hold jobs outside of government. His plan would essentially model Congress on Texas' state legislature, which meets every other year and relies on legislators who receive little compensation ($7,200 a year) and are expected to support themselves with with separate careers.
Perry's already up with a new web video highlighting another plank of his new platform: jailing members of Congress who cut stock deals based on insider information. His call comes after a 60 Minutes report detailing how top legislators from both parties have profited from trades they made in companies and industries that are directly affected by Congressional oversight.
In addition to his proposed changes to Congress, Perry would also institute 18-year term limits on the Supreme Court and end lifetime appointments of other federal judges. While Congress could vote to reduce their pay, changes to the Supreme Court would require amending the Constitution.
"Too many federal judges rule with impunity from the bench, and those who legislate from the bench should not be entitled to lifetime abuse of their judicial authority," Perry said.
And, of course, there's his plan for the executive branch, which includes cutting three (yes, those three) departments: Energy, Commerce, and Education. Perry is also calling for housing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to be privatized and for a moratorium on new federal regulations. He also supports a balanced budget amendment.
Politically, Perry's latest move pits him directly against Congress, whose favorable ratings are rapidly trending towards 0 in public opinion polls. It's highly unlikely leaders of either party are going to be too enthusiastic about the idea of essentially neutering their office.
Perry's new role as an anti-corruption crusader naturally invites scrutiny of his own political career, which has seen a number of high-profile claims of conflicts of interest over the years, many of them pegged to his longtime base of ultra-wealthy donors.
Democratic group American Bridge is already accusing him of hypocrisy, citing one incident in which Perry purchased stock in a hospital equipment company run by a top donor, James Leininger, the same day he met with him. Perry turned a profit after a new wave of investors drove its price up immediately afterwards. He has denied any wrongdoing.
"If Perry thinks members of Congress belong in jail, what would he think about an elected official who purchased 2,800 shares of stock after speaking with that company's CEO on the same day a giant investment group purchased 2.2 million of its shares?" communications director Chris Harris said in a statement.