Rep. Mark Walker isn't calling for Sen. Mitch McConnell's scalp. The leader of the Republican Study Committee, the largest Republican conference in Congress, doesn't want to see the majority leader disgraced or fired. Walker, R-N.C., just thinks McConnell should go into permanent retirement.
"I certainly believe they would be better off with different leadership," Walker tells me Friday. He adds that it is "not my call" and hedges that it is outside his "jurisdiction." But the conservative admits he "would like to see some of these other guys serve at some point" in the position.
Tame by everyday standards, that statement is the equivalent of congressional fighting words. Walker says they're warranted because Senate inaction represents an existential threat to the House majority.
"Historically when you have both houses and the administration, there's an average of 32 seats that swing the other direction," Walker notes. The longer McConnell stalls on healthcare, he believes, the more likely it becomes that Republicans will lose their majority in the House. He notes that "it only takes 24 to surrender the majority to Democrats and Nancy Pelosi."
While Walker won't get to vote on McConnell in the Senate, he's done more than just complain in the press. At least two Senate Republicans met with the RSC chairman this week to discuss the tenure of the majority leader.
"McConnell always gets what he wants," a GOP aide told me, explaining the frustration. "If he wanted Obamacare repealed, he'd get it. Just look at the confirmation of Judge Gorsuch." McConnell moved heaven and Earth to make that happen, the aide said, "why can't he do the same with healthcare?"
Obviously healthcare legislation and judicial nominations aren't the same. But conservatives are angry that McConnell won't break with Senate procedure to repeal Obamacare like he did to get Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. In McConnell's high-minded language about procedure, they see an excuse for procrastination. Specifically, they're angry about the Sept. 30 redline for the reconciliation instructions, an expiration date the staffer described as "an arbitrary redline."
Asked if this was the start of something bigger, the melodramatic staffer replied: "Yep, down with the king."
Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.