The just-elected chairman of the Republican Study Committee is pledging to never publicly criticize GOP leadership, a marked turn for the position that has been used in past years to hold Speaker John Boehner’s feet to the fire on occasion.
“I don’t need to air any differences of opinion in public,” said Rep. Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX), the newly picked chairman, to reporters exiting the closed-door election meeting, one of several times he vowed to keep his disagreements with leadership private.
Flores defeated South Carolina Rep. Mick Mulvaney 84-57 in the second round of balloting, lawmakers said. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) was defeated in the first round with a handful of votes.
Even moments after the meeting, Flores was facing scrutiny from conservatives who fear Flores will significantly change the direction of the conservative caucus group.
For example, a visibly angry Rep. Raul Labrador accused GOP leadership of meddling in the election to help Flores win, a parallel to allegations in 2012 that Boehner helped elect Steve Scalise to the post.
Asked whether Flores’ chairmanship would prompt an “exodus” of hard-line conservatives from the group, Labrador said, “we’ll see.”
In his remarks after the election, Flores did little to quell building right wing angst about how he will lead the group.
Asked whether he viewed the role of RSC chairman as holding leadership accountable from a conservative direction, Flores said no.
“The mission statement of the RSC is to foster a constitutionally bound limited government, it’s to have a strong national defense, it’s to protect private property rights and it’s to support American values. That’s what the mission statement is. There’s nothing in the mission statement about trying to hold leadership accountable,” Flores said.
“That said, if you do those things, if you fulfill that mission statement, you’re going to be constantly pushing leadership to the positive conservative solutions I’m talking about,” he added.
Flores said he will use a different approach to pushing the conference to the right than past chairmen.
“I have disagreements with leadership, I have disagreements with the Speaker, but I have those one-on-one. I don’t go to the media to do it, I don’t go to the House floor to do it. My goal is to have us all work together,” he said.
Flores also denied that he will be a “shill” for leadership.
“I didn’t say I was going to be a shill for them. I think the comments about me being a shill for leadership are beyond the pale. I’m going to be pushy, and I’ll have disagreements with them. But those disagreements are going to be between them and me. They’re not going to be for public consumption.”
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), a former RSC Chairman, offered a tepid appraisal.
“We’ll have to see. I was for Mick. The members have spoken and lets give Mr. Flores a chance,” Jordan said.
Another former RSC Chairman was more praiseworthy.
“I think Bill Flores is going to be a great RSC chair,” said Rep. Tom Price (R-GA).
Daniel Horowitz, a conservative activist for Conservative Review who watches the movements of House conservatives closely, criticized the Flores pick.
“At a time when conservatives need a bold and aggressive caucus to combat the tepidness from leadership, the RSC has been rendered ineffective. With 180 members, including many moderates, and a new chairman who wants to avoid confrontation with leadership, conservative members should look elsewhere for leadership and unite behind a clear conservative agenda,” Horowitz said.