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« Live From Austin | Blog Home Page | RGA Notebook: The Palin Chronicles »

Perry: Time For Governors To Push Back

CEDAR CREEK, Texas -- Hosting more than 20 of his colleagues outside the state capital tonight, Gov. Rick Perry said that Republican governors are the ones carrying the torch for the GOP in opposing an overreaching Democratic administration in Washington, as the RGA made a strong case for the philosophical leadership of the party.

Just as Senate Democrats were unveiling legislation to reform the nation's health care system, Texas' governor called for a simpler approach to governance that emphasized tax cuts, lower spending and less obtrusive regulation.

"By and large, it's been those Republican governors who have had the courage and the will and the discipline to push those types of changes through," Perry said at the opening public session of the Republican Governors Association Conference here tonight. "We have a federal government today that is wanting to ... create one-sized fits all policy for all of the states. I happen to think it's time for a substantial number of governors to have the courage to stand up and push back on Washington, DC."

It was the strongest message of the featured speakers tonight, but one that could define the gathering as Republican state leaders celebrate double wins in New Jersey and Virginia. Perry, as well as Govs. Tim Pawlenty, Bobby Jindal and Mitch Daniels, emphasized the idea of states driving policy and competing with one another, rather than the federal government implementing one universal policy on all 50.

"I get pretty passionate about the Tenth Amendment," Perry told his fellow governors and hundreds of other attendees at a resort outside Austin. "We don't need to back away from in the least bit."

Tonight the RGA also highlighted two of its newest members, Govs.-elect Chris Christie of New Jersey and Bob McDonnell of Virginia. Each credited the national organization with tactical decisions that contributed to their victories, while soberly acknowledging the challenges they face. And despite their colleagues' resistance to federal action, each signaled a willingness to partner with Washington as they begin their tenures.

"The problems in this country and the state of New Jersey are too big for us to be always emphasizing the partisan divide," Christie said at a press conference with McDonnell and RGA chair Haley Barbour. "The places I don't agree with the president - and there are more of those than I agree with him - I'm going to speak out vocally and I'm going to stand up for the things I believe in -- that's what the people elected me to do. But they didn't elect me to be disagreeable just for the sake of doing it."

McDonnell noted that he emphasized a bipartisan message in his campaign in Virginia, and highlighted his agreement with the president on areas like education.

"There is so much heartache in this economy, and there's so much bad news that people hear about," McDonnell said. "What they don't need is more rancor out of Washington or Richmond or any other state.

Republican governors will continue to draw contrasts with the Democratic administration in Washington Thursday in a press conference addressing health care reform. That specific issue was raised several times tonight, most notably by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. He said that his state's residents have seen both teh best and worst of government (a reference to federal response to Hurricane Katrina), and that they were wary of government "involvement in health care."