Club for Growth targets GOP campaign chairman for primary

The conservative Club for Growth wants to find a primary challenger for the chairman of the House Republican campaign arm after his comments criticizing entitlement reforms backed by President Obama.

The Club said Thursday it would add Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) to the list of members it is seeking to primary.

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“We always knew Greg Walden had a liberal record, but he really cemented it with his public opposition to even modest entitlement reform,” Club for Growth President Chris Chocola said in a statement on Thursday.

Walden has come under fire for describing on Wednesday Obama’s budgetary proposal of “chained CPI,” a reform backed by many Republicans, as a “shocking attack on seniors.”

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday he disagreed with Walden’s comments and had talked to him about it.

“I’ve made it clear that I disagree with what Chairman Walden said. He and I have had a conversation about it,” Boehner said.

Of Obama’s proposal, the Speaker said: “This is the least we must do to begin to solve the problems with Social Security.”

Coming from the chairman of the National Republican Campaign Committee, the comments appeared to a point to a new line of attack Republicans might use in the battle for the House next year.

Chained CPI would scale back increases to benefits for Social Security and other government programs using a less-generous formula for adjusting benefits for inflation.

It is also a proposal that has been backed by Republicans. While the GOP has criticized Obama’s budget, Boehner and others have complimented the proposal on chained CPI.

Boehner declined to say if he would support political attacks against Democrats who supported chained CPI.

“Chairman Walden and I have had a conversation, and we’ll leave it at that,” he said.

Club for Growth uses primarymycongressman.com to highlight lawmakers that the group considers inadequately conservative. The website lets users “recommend primary opponents to the incumbents highlighted by Club for Growth Action, as well as to recommend primary challengers for any Republican member of Congress.”

The Club also criticized Walden on other issues, saying he had a 62 percent lifetime score from the group.

“Greg Walden has voted for bailing out Wall Street, dozens of pork projects, and against cutting the spending from the Obama stimulus,” Chocola said.

At the White House press briefing on Thursday, press secretary Jay Carney called Walden's criticism “ridiculous.”

“This is a Republican proposal,” Carney said Thursday. “And cynical attempts to make it otherwise by some represent, I think, dissonance within the Republican Party, and we've seen plenty of condemnation from conservatives and Republicans of that sort of flagrantly ridiculous and cynical attempt to disown a proposal that emanated from Republican leaders.”