2011-11-23 / Columns

Texas Politics

Perry’s roundhouse swings getting wilder
Dave McNeely
Dave McNeely

I n trying to pull his presidential campaign out of a nosedive, Gov. Rick Perry is escalating his attack on all things Washington.

Perry’s latest proposals include making serving in Congress a part-time job, for half the current $174,000 salary, with members spending more time earning a living in their districts.

“It is time to create a part time Congress where their pay is cut in half, their office budgets are cut in half, and their time in Washington is cut in half,” Perry said last week in Iowa.

Perry also wants to put term limits on Congress, which seems a little strange coming from Texas’ longest-serving governor, ever – who is paid $150,000 a year. He also wants term limits for federal judges, including members of the U.S. Supreme Court, who currently have lifetime appointments.

And, after CBS news questioned whether top congressional leaders have cashed in on insider information, Perry wants to make that a crime.

Perry challenged one leader – House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi -- to a debate on congressional ethics. Too busy, Pelosi said.

Perry didn’t challenge Republican House Speaker John Boehner, also among those mentioned by CBS. But Boehner was probably also too busy, with Congress trying to figure out how to cut spending and increase revenue without taking heat for raising taxes. Perry proposals about ethics may be skating a bit close to thin ice. Some critics immediately charged Perry has his own ethical tin ear.

Like lobby business going to former staff members. And pay-to-play questions about whether grants from his pet Texas Enterprise Fund and Emerging Technology Fund are used as rewards for contributors to his campaign fund.

One thing Perry does have is campaign money. He’s using some of it for TV ads in Iowa and elsewhere, claiming that Democratic President Barack Obama said “that Americans are lazy.”

The ad starts with a clip of Obama saying “We’ve been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades.”

“Can you believe that?” Perry exclaims. “That’s what our president thinks is wrong with America? That Americans are lazy? That’s pathetic.”

Obama was talking about attracting foreign investors to America, responding to a question from the head of Boeing about how foreign investors perceive America.

Obama said this country hasn’t been as vigorous as it should in advertising its attractions to foreigners. “There are a lot of things that make foreign investors see the U.S. as a great opportunity – our stability, our openness, our innovative free-market culture,” Obama said. “But we’ve been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades.

“We’ve kind of taken for granted – well, people will want to come here – and we aren’t out there hungry, selling America and trying to attract new business into America,” Obama said.

Not quite the same as saying that “Americans are lazy,” as Perry charges.

If Perry doesn’t make a presidential ticket, his credibility rating in Texas could drop a lot.

• • •

One thing Perry’s presidential candidacy has done is burn up a lot of the political oxygen in Texas.

But with federal courts redrawing redistricting maps passed by the Legislature and signed by Perry, the political fire should heat up considerably.

On Thursday, ((11/17/11)) two of three judges that heard the redistricting challenges in San Antonio said the Legislature’s Texas House and Senate maps under-represented minorities that made up most of the state’s population growth.

Since minorities in Texas tend to lean Democratic, the new map for the House is expected to produce as many as a dozen more Democratic seats than that drawn by the Republican-dominated Legislature.

Present and would-be legislators have been poring over the latest jigsaw puzzles, trying to plot their political courses. The filing period opens Nov. 28 and closes Dec. 15.

Those preliminary interim maps for the 2012 elections, plus a re-charting of the state’s congressional districts that was not released Thursday, were expected to be finalized this week.

Because of population growth, Texas will go from 32 congressional districts to 36. That makes the map-drawing more complex than the 150 Texas House districts or 31 Senate districts, which remain the same number of legislative districts.

Minority groups and Democrats complained that the Legislature’s congressional map would reduce the number of districts thought capable of electing a minority from the current 11 of 32 to 10 of 36.

Those contesting the Legislature’s map think as many as 14 such “minority opportunity” districts can be drawn, but believe 12 or more will be a victory.

DAVE McNEELY is political columnist. You may contact him at davemcneely111@gmail.com or (c edd512)458-2963.

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