- The Washington Times - Monday, January 23, 2017

The new chairman of the Republican Study Committee said Monday he isn’t sweating President Donald Trump’s lack of message discipline in his first few days in office, including the outspoken mogul’s focus on media bias and Inauguration Day crowd sizes during a meeting with the CIA.

Rep. Mark Walker, North Carolina Republican, said Mr. Trump is adapting to political environs after a long career in business, where he was in charge of everything.

“There is a learning curve,” he said.

Senate Democrats forced GOP leaders to delay a vote on Mr. Trump’s pick to lead the CIA, Rep. Mike Pompeo, from Friday to late Monday.

Yet instead of grabbing onto that fight, Mr. Trump mainly railed against the media during his visit to the intelligence agency, denouncing reports about the crowd size at the inauguration and a since-corrected pool report that said removed the bust of Martin Luther King Jr. from the Oval Office.

Staying on message and daily priorities, Mr. Walker said, is part of a “political maturation” that should take place in due time.

“I’m optimistic and hopeful — I should say — that that will, over the next few months, become more and more of a discipline that we see from the administration,” Mr. Walker said.

The Republican Study Committee is a bloc of House conservatives that boasted roughly 170 members in the last Congress. It’s the largest of three main factions within the House GOP caucus, alongside the centrist Tuesday Group and hard-right Freedom Caucus.

Mr. Walker, who replaced Rep. Bill Flores of Texas as chairman, said he is still recruiting members from the incoming freshman GOP class and should have a final roster by March.

On policy, he said he’s confident the RSC will eventually read from the same playbook as Mr. Trump, despite fracture points that are emerging between the president’s platform and conservative ideology.

Mr. Walker said Congress will have a responsibility to impose fiscal discipline, particularly on mandatory programs that are eating up a sizable portion of the budget.

Mr. Trump has promised not to touch entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security, which could make that goal difficult, yet he also nominated a fiscal conservative — Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina — to manage the White House’s budget office.

“I do have a lot of confidence in Mick and the heart of this administration to make sure that spending does come under some kind of control,” Mr. Walker said.

The Republican caucus and Mr. Trump are both eager to repeal Obamacare, though Mr. Walker and other conservatives are cool to Mr. Trump’s idea of letting the government negotiate drug prices under Medicare. It’s an idea that offers a rare piece of common ground between the new president and progressive Democrats.

“I would be cautious in affirming that is the best approach to take,” he said, though noted he hasn’t yet spoken to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan out the topic.

On immigration, Mr. Walker said Republicans and Mr. Trump are in agreement on quickly securing the border.

“But we’ve got to get off that talking point, and we’ve got to talk about, ‘Long term, how do we solve some of these immigration issues?’” he said.

Without staking out a policy position, he said Republicans will have to decide in the coming months about what to do about so-called “Dreamers” who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

Mr. Trump has said he would cancel Mr. Obama’s broader amnesty for certain illegal immigrants, but in an interview with Time Magazine last month, he said he’s still searching for a solution for the Dreamers.

“We’re going to work something out that’s going to make people happy and proud,” he said. “They got brought here at a very young age, they’ve worked here, they’ve gone to school here. Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs. And they’re in never-never land because they don’t know what’s going to happen.”

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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