Last month, Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) was elected chairman of the Republican Study Committee (RSC). The RSC was formed in 1973 as an organization for conservative members of the House to gather and promote conservative policies and legislation. With Republicans soon to be in charge of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, Rep. Walker is the right man at the right time to keep the House moving to the right.
Through the years, and in different incarnations, the RSC has moved the needle in the House, influencing the legislative process to achieve conservative outcomes. The departing chairman of the RSC, Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas) set a high bar for his predecessor. Rep. Flores moved an aggressive and balanced agenda, championing initiatives such as religious liberty, fighting poverty and reforming welfare, a Obamacare reform and replace package that should be part of the discussion moving forward, and a historic and courageous balanced budget plan.
The RSC’s incoming chairman Rep. Walker is poised to grow its legacy and continue to serve as a change agent. His conservative credentials are impressive. He has a 87% lifetime rating from Heritage Action for America, a 92% lifetime score from the Club for Growth, and a 92% lifetime average from FreedomWorks.
Rep. Walker hasn’t just taken the tough votes. He has introduced legislation to turn conservative priorities into policy. H.R. 5904, the Taxpayers Before Insurers Act introduced by the congressman would force the Obama administration to pay back to the Treasury $3.5 billion it took from taxpayers to give to well-connected health insurance companies to make up for the failures of Obamacare. The new RSC chair isn’t afraid to step up to the powerful health insurance lobby on behalf of taxpayers.
Concerned with the cost of regulations, he authored a bill to shine a light on the damage done by regulators. Rep. Walker’s bill, H.R.5319, the Article I Regulatory Budget Act, would force Congress to vote on regulatory spending, instead of punting on fiscal oversight of the regulatory budget. H.R. 5319 would put a stop to the practice of letting regulatory costs get lost in the weeds of our massive budget. That kind of innovative approach can help show taxpayers and lawmakers the extent of the regulatory burden, and hold Congress accountable to cut costs.
These legislative stands won’t surprise those who have followed his career. Rep. Walker will bring the common sense of someone who once managed a small business with a spiritual grounding befitting a pastor. This background has been on display through Rep. Walker’s dedication to working on poverty issues and breaking down barriers.
He has addressed combating poverty with former representative and head of the House Republican Conference J.C. Watts and local leaders in North Carolina. Speaker Ryan established a task force on poverty in February, and tackling the issue from a conservative perspective should be one of his properties in the next session of Congress. He has already looked to Rep. Walker as a leader on the issue. With Rep. Walker at the helm of the RSC, the speaker has an ally in the fight against poverty.
Rep. Walker has also reached across the aisle to make opportunities available for all Americans. He joined with Rep. Alma Adams (D-N.C.) to establish an internship program for students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). When the program was announced, Rep. Walker explained, “For too long Republicans have talked about minority outreach without taking any meaningful action. This internship program will open doors by providing HBCU students the chance to learn about Congress, and how political issues are viewed by each side of the aisle.”
The congressman’s focus on inclusiveness, education, and making Congress accessible to all Americans will serve him well as he assumes a leadership role in the party of Lincoln. Republicans need to make sure they are listening to and speaking with all Americans. Rep. Walker’s commitment to reaching out will be key as Republicans seek to be increasingly inclusive and innovative.
As the Republican Congress looks to work with President-elect Donald Trump in 2017, Rep. Walker is focused on making a difference out of the gate. Repealing Obamacare is high on his agenda. The congressman “noted that in the past year, BlueCross BlueShield premiums in North Carolina went up more than 30 percent. ‘This is something that’s not hyperbole or perception,’ he said. ‘This is something that people are feeling, whether it’s individuals or small business people. Something has to be done.’”
Health care is a deeply personal matter that impacts an individual’s physical, mental and fiscal well-being. Getting Obamacare repealed and empowering Americans to make the decisions they need with the wide range of health care options they deserve can serve as a signature initiative of the RSC in 2017. That would build on the work done by Rep. Flores to undo Obamacare and the damage it has done.
As the new chair of the RSC, Rep. Walker combines a unique blend of pastor, businessman, and politician. He can build on the successes of the RSC, while pushing Republicans in the House to keep being responsive to the real anxieties of taxpayers who have suffered under President Obama. The Obama administration has warped our healthcare system, marginalized the people’s representatives in Congress, and suffocated our economy with regulations. Rep. Walker has the opportunity to help steer the course the Republican House will take in a conservative direction. It isn’t an opportunity he intends to miss.
Neil Siefring is vice president of Hilltop Advocacy, LLC, and a former Republican House staffer. Follow him on Twitter @NeilSiefring