BETTENDORF, Iowa -- Gov. Rick Perry has an idea for members of Congress and Supreme Court justices: Send 'em home.
Speaking at a metal fabrication facility in northeastern Iowa, the Texas governor unveiled a broad plan to "uproot" the three branches of government, eliminating lifetime appointments for Supreme Court judges and transforming Congress into a "part time" institution.
Perry, who is trying to shake the ghost of an awkward debate gaffe last week, noted the Texas legislature only meets for 140 days every two years and said that members of Congress in Washington are "completely detached" from their constituents.
"I say send them home to live under the laws they pass among the people they represent," he said of federal lawmakers, whose pay he also says should be halved.
And he proposed ending lifetime appointments for federal judges, including Supreme Court justices. Such a reform would require a Constitutional amendment.
"I think one of the ways to protect America from these activist judges is to put term limits on them," Perry said, "Every president would get to appoint two. Eighteen year terms."
Perry also opened the door to spending cuts at which even some of his Republican competitors might balk, pledging to eliminate "sacred cows" including "wasteful spending at the Department of Defense, where every dollar we spend should support our warfighters around the world."
During his remarks before an audience of about 150 workers at the Schebler Company facility, Perry painted himself as a consummate outsider -- a notable but unnamed contrast to emerging top-tier candidate Newt Gingrich.
"Unique to the Republican field, I have never been an establishment figure, have never served in Congress or part of an Administration, and have never been a paid lobbyist. My career has been that of a Washington Outsider," he said.
Responding to questions from members of the audience, Perry reiterated the idea that the federal government should not bail out European countries struggling to deal with crushing sovereign debt.
"Should the United States be opening up our Treasury to go bail out companies like Italy or Greece? I'm just asking. No! They made bad spending decisions. And whether it's a Wall Street entity or whether it is a major manufacturing company in this country, if you make bad decisions, you and or your stockholders are the ones that need to pay the price for that, not the American taxpayers."
The final question from the audience came from a woman who asked Perry his stance on "personhood" measures like one that was recently defeated in Mississippi. The governor listed his accomplishments on the life issue in Texas -- including his support parental consent and sonogram measures -- but did not specifically address the issue of "personhood."
"I'm pro-life, been pro-life all my life." he responded, later adding "I happen to believe in putting justices on the Supreme Court who are pro-life and Roe vs. Wade would be found to be unconstitutional. It would go back to the states until there would be a constitutional amendment in the United States that would clearly defend life and that life be from the time of conception until death."
Asked for clarification, Perry spokesman Mark Miner replied by email: "The governor supports measures that protect life."