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Nancy Pelosi mocks Rick Perry, declines to debate

November 17, 2011|By James Oliphant
(Bryan Snyder / Reuters (left);…)

Even Nancy Pelosi is kicking poor Rick Perry when he's down.

The Texas governor and GOP presidential hopeful had sent a letter to Pelosi, the House’s top Democrat, challenging her to a debate next week over his “Overhaul Washington” plan that calls for a part-time Congress of citizen-legislators.

For Perry, the move was straight out of the conservative playbook. Down in the polls, mocked by late-night comedians, his contributions drying up, he picked a fight with Pelosi, the bete noire of the American Right.

At her weekly news conference Thursday, Pelosi couldn't resist riffing on Perry's epic debate gaffe from last week.

She suggested she couldn’t debate Perry on Monday because her schedule was booked with three events that day -- an event in Portland, a tour of labs in California and “that's two. I can't remember what the third thing is."

In the letter to Pelosi, first obtained by The Hill newspaper, Perry said he was responding to criticism from her lieutenant in the House, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland. Hoyer this week accused Perry of “pandering to the tea party" and said it was not a “serious effort." He contended that America has big-time problems and needs a full-time Congress on the job.

Perry fired back in his missive, asking Pelosi a series of leading questions such as: “Is it so important for the Washington power brokers to build their fiefdoms of influence, including providing bailouts to Wall Street while business on Main Street are being boarded up every day?” (Yes? No?)

Perry gave a speech this week in Iowa outlining his plan in which he would seek to not only diminish the power of Congress but also limit the terms of Supreme Court justices. (He said nothing, interestingly, about reducing the scale of the presidency.)

“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,” Perry said Tuesday in his speech in Bettendorf, Iowa.

The big problem with Perry’s plan is that the president doesn’t have the power to limit the terms or salaries of Congress or for that matter, the terms of high court justices who hold lifetime tenure.

From the moment the letter was sent, a debate between Perry and Pelosi had about as much chance of happening as President Obama taking on the mayor of Amarillo. But the Texan is obviously trying to do something big and bold to capture the imagination of Republicans who have been abandoning him for the likes of Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich. A new Fox News poll has Perry sliding to just 7 % among GOP primary voters.

Perry’s fabled “oops” moment and poor debate performances overall are also now beginning to take a toll on what had been his leading asset: his fundraising machine. The Houston Chronicle reported Wednesday that funds are drying up for the Perry campaign and that some donors who RSVP’d to events were not showing up.

That report is consistent with what one Perry fundraiser told the Los Angeles Times last week after Perry's "brain freeze" at the debate.

"I think the Perry campaign is over," the bundler said. "I regret saying that and I do not say it easily."

Kathleen Hennessey of the Washington Bureau contributed to this report.

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