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Campus Notebook: Perry Says to Make Congress Part Time

Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry’s latest jobs proposal is to create more part-time work — by cutting in half the time lawmakers spend in Washington, D.C.

From Bettendorf, Iowa, the Texas governor laid out his “Uproot and Overhaul Washington” speech Tuesday.

Along with ending lifetime appointments for Supreme Court justices and eliminating the departments of Energy, Education and Commerce, Perry would aim to make big changes to the legislative branch should he be elected in 2012.

Perry said a “part-time citizen Congress” would reduce by half not only the time lawmakers are in session but also their office budgets and salaries.

Such a move would keep lawmakers in Washington honest, Perry contends, whereas many lawmakers currently go to Capitol Hill to become career politicians and lose touch with their constituents.

“We send Members of Congress to look out for America, not enrich themselves. But too often, they are taken captive by the Washington culture,” Perry said. “That’s why we need a part-time Congress. I say send them home to live under the laws they pass among the people they represent.”

Though lawmakers would never endorse the plan in full, they have taken some baby steps in that direction. Both chambers reduced their budgets to pay staff salaries and operating expenses, for instance.

House Republican leadership proposed a new schedule that puts Members back in their districts about every three weeks, whereas previous Congresses had lawmakers in Washington for blocks of up to several weeks.

And with Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ staff at the helm, House Democrats and Republicans are submitting a formal request this week to the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction to cut Congressional salaries, though not by half.

Predictably, Democrats didn’t think much of Perry’s proposal.

“John Boehner has already turned Congress into a part-time operation. We’re in less than 100 days,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said. “And of course, [Perry’s] proposal is a ridiculous proposition. What is he saying, that setting the course for this nation is a part-time operation?”

On the other hand, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said he could be open to the concept.

“I’d love to do part time,” he said, “but we’ve got to reduce the role of the federal government first.”

Norton Testifies for D.C. Protesters

The trial of eight Washington residents arrested for protesting Congress’ control of D.C. affairs kicked off Tuesday, and their federal representative was there to support them. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) went to D.C. Superior Court to testify on behalf of the defendants.

They were among the 41 arrested in April on charges of blocking traffic and disturbing the peace while demonstrating against two policy riders contained in the short-term funding measure passed that month — one barred federal funds for abortions, and the other reinstituted a school voucher program.

“D.C. elected officials and residents will not walk away from the infringement of their rights to govern themselves and to spend their taxpayer-raised local funds as they choose,” Norton said in a House floor speech in advance of the court appearance.

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