Politics

Walker Defeats Harris for Republican Study Committee Chairmanship

Harris says he'll remain a part of both the RSC and Freedom Caucus

North Carolina Rep. Mark Walker is the incoming chairman of the Republican Study Committee. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Freshman Rep. Mark Walker defeated three-term Rep. Andy Harris in the Thursday contest for the Republican Study Committee chairmanship.

The North Carolina Republican will lead the conservative caucus, the largest GOP group in the House, with his party in control of both chambers of Congress and the White House for the first time in a decade. 

“Anytime that you have a chance to run for something and lead your peers, your colleagues, it’s very humbling,” Walker told reporters after the closed-door election. “We’re ready to jump in and work hard. We have a historic moment with President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-[elect] Mike Pence, along with our Senate and House, to really do some things for the American people.”

Those things include “tax reform, protect[ing] our religious liberties, full repeal of Obamacare,” he said. “It’s going to be a busy season, but we’re looking forward to it.”

Harris, who had the backing of prior RSC chairs, said he will remain a part of the committee, despite the loss.

“That’s the way it works in a democracy,” the Maryland Republican told Roll Call after his defeat, adding that the vote was close.

Harris said he will also remain a member of the House Freedom Caucus, a smaller conservative group that was formed two years ago because the members felt the RSC did not adequately represent their views. 

Walker said the RSC would work with the Freedom Caucus to advance conservative ideas.

“It starts with the right approach and the right tone,” he said. “I love those guys. I mean, I have a lot of friends there, and we’ve worked together before on different things. And I appreciate their stance on conservatism. I’m right there with them.”

“Our approach may vary from time to time,” Walker added. “But I think those guys are going to be a great part of the RSC and moving forward.”

Several members of the Freedom Caucus did not join the RSC this year.

“My hope was actually to bring more [Freedom Caucus members] in, but I’m pretty sure now they’ll view this as something that won’t lead them that way,” Harris said. 

The RSC has broken from leadership at times, but not as frequently as the Freedom Caucus. Some conservatives feel the RSC has not done enough to push legislation further to the right, although outgoing Chairman Bill Flores of Texas disagrees with that assessment. 

The RSC will stand up to leadership with finesse when it needs to, Walker said. 

“I think you do it with integrity and with grace. Sometimes, that means private conversations to say, ‘This is as far as we can [go].’ Sometimes, we have to push back, but that’s what the RSC historically has done, and we look forward to continuing to do that,” he said. 

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