Harris loses GOP Study Committee chairman race
— Freshman Rep. Mark Walker defeated three-term Rep. Andy Harris in the Thursday contest for Republican Study Committee chairman.
The North Carolina Republican will lead the conservative caucus, the largest GOP group in the House, as his party controls 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 said. “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 RSC, despite his loss.
“That’s the way it works in a democracy,” the Maryland Republican said of his loss. He said the vote was close.
Harris said he will also remain a member of the 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 Cau- cus members) in, but I’m pretty sure now they’ll view this as something that won’t lead them that way.”
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 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.”