With Tallahassee as his backdrop, Jeb Bush vowed to “disrupt” the Washington establishment if he's elected president, by shrinking government, seeking a line-item veto, campaigning for a balanced budget amendment and imposing a six-year ban on the revolving door of Congressmen entering the lobbying corps.
"The ultimate disruption of Washington is to reject, as I do, the whole idea of a government forever growing more, borrowing more, and spending more,’’ Bush told 350 supporters at Florida State University. It was the first in a series of speeches intended to outline his priorities.
Standing before a sign that proclaimed “DC Reform,” Bush took a subtle dig at some of his rivals – Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky -- by emphasizing his outsider status. He called for legislation to pay Congress only on days they show up for work and joked that "it would at least get them to show up for a vote."
He then launched a multi-part proposal that he said would reform Washington the way he changed Tallahassee. His proposals include many of the spending limits Republican candidates have been touting for decades -- asking states to ratify a balanced budget amendment, embracing the line-time veto, reforming government contracting, and imposing limits on agency spending.
But Bush offered a few updated approaches, based on his time in Tallahassee.
Noting that he was the first governor to make his budget available online, he said agencies should have to justify their spending and provide more transparency. Citing his push to reduce the state workforce by 13,000, he said he would shrink government payroll 10 percent by freezing hiring and then hiring only one worker to replace every three that retire.
He called for lobbying reforms, noting that in Washington "spending on lobbying has risen by more than 45 percent over the past decade, translating to $12.5 million per member of Congress at last count."
Referring to the Florida lobbyist reforms, backed by Bush but initiated in Florida by former-Senate President Tom Lee, he said he would end the revolving door of Congressmen getting jobs as lobbyists by imposing a six-year ban on the practice.
"We need to help politicians to rediscover life outside of Washington, which – who knows? – might even be a pleasant surprise for them,'' he said.
The friendly audience of supporters included former campaign and agency staff he had hired throughout his career -- many of whom have now become lobbyists. He nonetheless aim at the livelihoods of some of them calling them an "ambiguous class of consultants who lobby but call it something else."
"The definition of the term ‘lobbyist’ should be expanded to address the cadre of ‘government relations’ and ‘government affairs’ specialists now populating the Capitol,'' he said.
Bush blasted the federal civil service system as “ruled by inertia” where “people are hired, promoted, and given pay increases often without regard to performance.”