For the second time this week, Rep. Mark Walker has found himself in a controversy over comments he made.
Walker, a Republican who represents a central North Carolina district that includes Greensboro, was quoted in The New York Times about Republicans’ silence on the debt after unveiling their tax plan.
Walker is the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a conservative caucus with more than 150 members. The caucus is a vocal supporter of balanced budgets and reducing the federal deficit.
The Republican tax cuts could cost more than $2 trillion over the next 10 years, according to the Times. The tax reform package is being championed by the Trump administration and Republican congressional leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan.
“It’s a great talking point when you have an administration that’s Democrat-led. It’s a little different now that Republicans have both houses and the administration,” Walker said Wednesday.
The comment was quickly interpreted by many as proof that Republicans do not care about the national debt, despite railing against it often when President Barack Obama was in office. It was picked up on Twitter and in various outlets across the internet as a sign of hypocrisy.
He said on Twitter on Thursday that critics are taking the exact wrong meaning from his quote.
Later in the story, Walker is paraphrased saying it’s “imperative that lawmakers pay attention to the debt.”
In an interview with McClatchy on Thursday, Walker said he was speaking about the thought process of some Republicans in his interview with The New York Times — not articulating his own.
“There may be Republicans who arrive in Washington that have this perspective,” Walker said he was trying to explain. “That’s a flawed way to look at how we need to be looking at our debts. ... The real perspective is we’ve got to worry about deficit spending. We’ve got to worry about budgets.”
Walker has been a strong proponent of lowering debts and deficits. He voted against the budget deal that tied Hurricane Harvey funding, an increase in the nation’s debt limit and short-term government funding together because “the debt ceiling should be paired with significant fiscal and structural reforms.”
“This is the first time I feel like there’s been something that was so far from the point we were making that we had to step back in,” Walker said of the reaction to his quote. “I was talking about the specifically flawed Republican mindset. We are 180 degrees away and we pound this every day as leader of the Republican Study Committee.”
The Republican Study Committee quickly embraced the tax plan, which is more of an outline at the moment. The plan calls for three tax brackets, rather than the current seven, at 12 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent, but details about which income earners will pay which tax rates is still not public.
“I like the fact that the brackets have come down. We still want to see that information. We’re very supportive of what we’ve seen so far,” Walker said.
On Tuesday, Walker called women in the Republican Study Committee “eye candy” during a press event.
“We must become more vocal and visible. The accomplished men and women of the RSC and women — if it wasn’t sexist, I would say the RSC eye candy; we’ll leave that out of the record — are not attention-seekers. In fact many of them prefer to work behind the scenes in the process of what we call effective conservatism. However, we have no other alternatives to move in a more pro-active manner,” Walker said.
He apologized later in the day.
“I made a flippant remark meant to be lighthearted, but fell short. I’m proud of the women who serve in Congress, and in the leadership of the Republican Study Committee,” Walker said in a statement.
Walker said Thursday that the two comments are different.
“When I say something that is meant to be goofy and comes across as inept, that’s on me and I have to own it,” Walker said.
Walker, who spent two decades as a Baptist minister, was first elected to Congress in 2014. He defeated Phil Berger Jr., the son of the leader of the state Senate, in a run-off in the Republican primary that year. Walker was re-elected in 2016, easily defeating his Democratic opponent.
Brian Murphy: 202.383.6089; Twitter: @MurphinDC