Rep. Mark Walker has made a quick ascent during his short tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives. The second-term Republican from Greensboro is the chairman of the powerful Republican Study Committee, a post held a decade ago by Vice President Mike Pence.
And now the former pastor is getting name-checked by Senate Democrats’ leader on the Senate floor.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York called out Walker, a budget deficit hawk, during a floor speech Monday that highlighted the contradiction between conservatives who want balanced budgets and who support a Republican budget proposal that passed Congress this week and would pave the way for tax cuts that would add $1.5 trillion to the deficit over 10 years.
“So you’re only a deficit hawk when it’s politically expedient, Rep. Walker?” Schumer said.
“For many in the conservative wing of the House Republican caucus, the debt and deficit have been their No. 1 focus in Congress. Their raison d’etre. Many campaigned on the singular promise made with almost religious fervor to lower our nation’s debt and deficit.”
Schumer incorrectly identified Walker as part of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of about 36 Republican representatives led by Rep. Mark Meadows, who represents western North Carolina. Walker’s Republican Study Committee includes 157 House members. Republicans hold 239 seats.
“It was kind of funny to hear him get up lecturing about deficits and spending when he’s been the original swamp creature when it comes to spending,” Walker said Tuesday.
Walker said in exchange for his support on the budget, House leaders promised to bring up legislation related to a balanced budget amendment and other deficit-reducing measures soon.
Walker said he hardly knows Schumer.
“One banquet we sat close to each other and exchanged a conversation,” Walker said. “I don’t think we’ve been pen pals and I don’t see that in the future.”
The episode is just the latest to help elevate the visibility of Walker and the Republican Study Committee, which in recent years has been overtaken by the Freedom Caucus as the go-to voice of the conservative wing of the party. There is a developing rivalry between Meadows and Walker, The Hill wrote Tuesday.
“We’re not in a competition,” Walker countered Tuesday. “We’re just doing what historically the Republican Study Committee has been led to do and that would be the conservative think-tank policy driver in the United States House.”
To that end, Walker has taken on a higher profile.
He held a press conference in late September to warn Republicans that they must keep their promises to repeal the Affordable Care Act, pass tax reform and increase border security before the end of the year or face electoral consequences.
During the event, however, Walker referred to women in the committee as “eye candy” – an attempt at a light-hearted quip, he said, that landed wrong.
Walker announced earlier this month that the Republican Study Committee would not support a hurricane relief package without budget provisions to offset that spending so as not to increase the debt.
But a bill including disaster aid for Puerto Rico passed the House easily without offsetting cuts.
Note: This story has been updated to correct the amount that tax cuts would add to the deficit.
Brian Murphy: 202.383.6089; Twitter: @MurphinDC