By TODD J. GILLMAN / Washington Bureau
February 2011 11:47 AM
Gov. Rick Perry called the Obama approach to health care a "train wreck" in his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.
WASHINGTON — Texas Gov. Rick Perry told a major conservative gathering Friday that the federal government has grown into an intrusive, overbearing “monster.”
“They call us reactionary or lacking compassion,” Perry said. “Do you agree with them that the only answer to our challenges is more taxation, more borrowing, more spending, more central control?”
The crowd of several thousand at a Washington hotel shouted no.
“Me neither,” he said.
Perry joined a parade of big-name Republicans and would-be presidents, from Mitt Romney to Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump , all appearing at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference.
He insisted ahead of his speech that he’s not interested in higher office, and he made no hints to the contrary. But he embraced the high-profile chance to push a vision of a vastly shrunken federal government and boast about Texas’ relative prosperity.
“It’s not some problem-free nirvana,” he joked, though it’s “close.”
He offered a vision of a federal government that is vastly more humble and honors the 10th Amendment — the one restricting its role. He thundered at the Environmental Protection Agency, calling it “hellbent” on replacing a highly effective Texas air pollution permit system with regulations that would kill jobs and industry.
“We ought to be getting praise from our federal government,” he said. “But we’re being threatened by a fine and a lawsuit.”
Earlier Friday, in a breakfast speech to the Texas State Society, Perry unloaded on Texas Democrats for impeding the state’s access to $830 million in federal education funds.
Last summer, Texas Democrats in the House inserted an amendment in an education law that requires Perry to promise a certain level of state education outlays in order to qualify; they accused him of hypocritically tapping $3.2 billion in emergency school funds to balance the Texas budget, and said they needed to ensure he couldn’t do that again.
Perry insists that he’s not lawfully able to make such a promise — a point he reiterated in a terse letter to Texas congressional Democrats on Friday night.
Singling out Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, in his breakfast appearance, Perry said that “everything that he’s done on this issue is what the November elections were about — Washington, D.C., trying to micromanage the states. … That’s hurting the kids of the state of Texas.”
The political action conference Perry addressed, a major annual gathering in GOP circles, attracted about 11,000 people this year.
In both speeches, Perry described the Obama approach to health care as a costly “train wreck.” And he complained that instead of meddling in such areas, Washington should pay closer attention to true federal responsibilities it has neglected, such as security along the state’s 1,200-mile border with Mexico.
“We’re stuck in this frustrating paradox where Washington actually neglects the things they’re clearly supposed to be doing, while interfering in other areas in which they are neither welcome nor authorized,” he told the conservative gathering.
The good news, he said, is that in November, voters rejected politicians in both parties who pursued that path.
“Ladies and gentlemen who championed that big government idea of bailouts, those so-called stimulus programs, supported government giveaways — they got a pink slip,” he said. “It was awesome.”
Paul, a Texas congressman, spoke just before Perry. He offered no clues as to whether he’ll run for president again, though legions of Paulistas in the crowd would have been thrilled to hear that.
He did bask in his role as herald of the 2010 tea party surge, and father of freshman Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.
“I’m glad to see the revolution is continuing!” Paul proclaimed, playing on his slogan from the 2008 presidential race.
After warming up the crowd with a Libertarian-tinted case to eliminate the Federal Reserve, and curtail U.S. military activity and foreign aid, he offered a caustic judgment on the ideal of bipartisanship. Too often, he said, lawmakers cross party lines to allow government to expand beyond its true mandate.