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Star-Telegram.com

Perry set to propose sweeping consolidation of federal agencies

Posted Monday, Nov. 14, 2011

By Dave Montgomery

dmontgomery@star-telegram.com

BETTENDORF, Iowa -- Hoping that his infamous "oops moment" is old news, Gov. Rick Perry returned to Iowa on Monday with plans to unveil a sweeping federal consolidation that he said would "uproot all three branches of government."

Perry said he would shutter wasteful federal agencies, including the one he famously failed to remember in a debate last week.

Addressing about 270 Republicans at the Scott County Ronald Reagan Dinner on Monday night, Perry received a standing ovation after blasting the federal government for turning its back on average Americans and promising to attack Washington with a wrecking ball if he becomes president.

"The solution is not to nominate someone who is going to nibble around the edges," Perry said. "Washington doesn't need a new coat of paint. It needs a complete overhaul."

Perry will unveil his plan this morning at a town-hall meeting at a Bettendorf factory. Without offering details, he said the restructuring will include "very dramatic reforms" and will touch "every branch of government because they each have contributed to the demise of America."

It will also address "lifetime federal judges" who "rewrite our laws from the bench," he said.

The initiative is the latest in a series that includes the proposed creation of 1.2 million jobs through expanded energy production and a sweeping economic plan with an optional 20 percent flat tax.

Aides confirmed that the proposed consolidation would shutter the Commerce, Education and Energy departments.

Perry originally intended to preview his plans at a Republican debate in Michigan on Wednesday but could not remember the Energy Department as the third agency he wanted to jettison out of the federal bureaucracy. Analysts assailed the memory lapse as one of the worst gaffes in debate history. Some experts predicted that the bungle could be the demise of Perry's already struggling candidacy.

He staged somewhat of a recovery in a debate Saturday. He turned in an error-free performance and drew favorable reviews for taking substantive positions on foreign policy, including zero-based budgeting for aid to other countries.

Perry and his supporters were eager to complete the rehabilitation process as they opened a two-day visit in Iowa, where he needs a strong showing in the Jan. 3 caucuses to rekindle his campaign. Perry, who has been governor of Texas for nearly 11 years, enjoyed a brief stint as Republican front-runner before he began slipping in the polls.

But some Republicans who turned out for Perry's speech at Monday's dinner said Perry faces a steep challenge.

"It's going to be an uphill pull," said Bill Royster of LeClaire, Iowa. "He's still in the middle of the pack. I don't know if he'll ever become the leader of the pack."

But Matt Whitaker, Perry's Iowa campaign co-chairman, said Perry has time to turn things around. "He's covering the state. He's meeting the people he needs to meet," he said.

Dave Montgomery is the Star-Telegram's Austin bureau chief. 512-476-4294

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