Congressman Greg Walden, taken to task by fellow GOP national leaders and others over comments criticizing President Barack Obama for trying to slow the growth of Social Security benefits, isn't backing down.
"Oregonians are the ones who give me a voting card every two years — that's where my responsibility lies," said the Republican from Hood River in an interview with the Mail Tribune today.
"First of all, I support comprehensive entitlement reform, but it has to be done correctly," he added. "It should not take benefits away from existing seniors. This is something I believe very strongly."
During an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday, Walden accused Obama of "trying to balance this budget on the backs of seniors" by proposing slower growth in Social Security benefits in exchange for new revenue hikes. He also said Obama's new budget plan "really lays out kind of a shocking attack on seniors."
Walden specifically criticized an item in Obama's budget which would switch tax brackets and Social Security cost-of-living adjustments, which are indexed for inflation, to a "chained CPI," leading to reductions in future benefit increases.
Within 24 hours, his remarks drew a reprimand from House Speaker John Boehner. And the Club for Growth, an ultra-conservative group, announced Thursday that it was looking for a primary challenger against Walden.
"We always knew Greg Walden had a liberal record, but he really cemented it with his public opposition to even modest entitlement reform," club president Chris Chocola said in a prepared statement.
"Greg Walden has voted for bailing out Wall Street, dozens of pork projects, and against cutting the spending from the Obama stimulus," Chocola added. "He even voted against blocking taxpayer subsidies for Viagra. Greg Walden should be held accountable for his anti-growth voting record as well as his anti-growth rhetoric."
After labeling Walden a "RINO" — Republican in name only — the club announced it would back a GOP challenger to Walden in the next primary. (Correction: The acronym RINO has been corrected in this story.)
But Walden, the chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, isn't concerned about the threat from a fellow Republican.
"It's an open process," he said. "Anyone can file and run if they want. If this is what motivates them to run, I don't think they will get much traction."
— Paul Fattig