CHICAGO — White House hopeful Rick Perry on Tuesday unveiled a plan to make serving in the US Congress a part-time and relatively low-paying job as part of a broad overhaul of the federal government.
The Texas governor's proposal comes at a time when Congress faces record disapproval ratings due in part to the inability of legislators to bridge partisan divides and pass much-needed legislation.
"Congress is out of touch because Congressmen are overpaid, over-staffed and away from home too much," Perry said at a campaign stop in Iowa.
"It's 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. And if they do not submit a budget that balances by 2020 as my plan calls for, we should cut their pay in half again."
The Texas state legislature operates on a similar system in which lawmakers are only paid $7,200 a year and the legislative session lasts for just 140 days every other year.
Critics say the low salaries make it impossible for lawmakers to devote sufficient time to a complex job and discourage long terms which in turn help build expertise and professionalism.
They also argue that the state's limited funds for staff afford lobbyists too much power because legislators don't have the ability to conduct their own research.
Perry, who is trailing in the polls to win the Republican nomination to challenge President Barack Obama in the 2012 election, also vowed to cut the presidential salary in half.
Perry's plan includes a vow to reform congressional spending by ending bailouts and earmarks, amending the US Constitution to require a balanced budget, capping federal spending at 18 percent of GDP, and pushing legislation requiring a two-thirds majority to pass tax increases.
He also wants to end the life-time appointment of federal judges, issue a moratorium on new and pending federal regulations, and dismantle the departments of Commerce, Education and Energy.
"We will perform a full audit of the federal government, and there will be no sacred cows, including wasteful spending at the Department of Defense, where every dollar we spend should support our warfighters around the world," Perry said.