The Republican Study Committee has tapped Scott Parkinson as its new executive director. Parkinson’s predecessor, Will Dunham, recently left the post to lead Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s policy shop.
Parkinson comes to the RSC from the other side of the Capitol, where he served as deputy legislative director for Marco Rubio. While in the Florida senator’s office, Parkinson helped spearhead Rubio’s anti-poverty agenda, along with various tax-reform proposals.
It’s a policy background that makes Parkinson well suited for the RSC’s executive-director slot. In a recent interview, Parkinson says he hopes to harness his policy expertise as a means of returning the 170-plus-member caucus to its “original vision” — an ideas factory for conservative legislation paired with aggressive grassroots coalition outreach.
“More than ever, we need a caucus where conservatives can come together,” Parkinson says. “We are the majority of the majority. If we can come behind a position and unite, we think we can impact any policy decision in the House.”
‘The RSC can be a bigger group that gears toward not a compromised vision, but a consensus toward an actual solution.’
— Scott Parkinson
The RSC’s future was in some ways rendered hazy with the advent last year of the House Freedom Caucus, many members of which felt that the RSC had begun to hew too closely to the political middle. (It’s important to note, however, that most HFC members remain RSC members.) As Parkinson notes, the RSC was founded in 1973 as a forum for conservative backbenchers who felt that their voices had gone unheard — a carbon copy of the HFC’s mantra today.
But Parkinson stresses that the two groups can work in tandem to achieve what is, at the end of the day, a shared goal: providing conservative alternatives to legislation in the House.
“We can provide the Freedom Caucus with policy information they can’t develop on their own. We have a historical database to tap into, a big policy staff, and resources. When it comes to advancing overall ideas, [we] can work together to do that in [the] Republican conference.”
But he also notes the practical value of a group like the RSC above other conservative caucuses. “The RSC can be a bigger group that gears toward not a compromised vision, but a consensus toward an actual solution.”
#share#Parkinson was thrown directly into the scrum when he took over the executive-director role two weeks ago, as the House Republican conference currently remains gridlocked over the budget. The leadership is pushing for a budget that adheres to the $1.07 trillion spending levels agreed to by then-Speaker John Boehner and President Obama in October. Conservatives, on the other hand, are seeking to cut $30 billion from that figure, adhering to the original conservative budget plan passed earlier last year. It’s made for an impasse that has left many wondering whether there will be a budget at all, not to mention the appropriations bills on which Speaker Paul Ryan has staked his first full term.
One of Parkinson’s first big moves as executive director was to work closely with RSC chairman Bill Flores to arrive at the group’s official stance on the budget. Announced last week, their position maintains that the top-line figure should come down to $1.04 trillion. And should a $30 billion “side-car” package be attached to the House leadership’s budget — an idea that Budget Committee chairman Tom Price floated in conference this morning — there must be a promise that those cuts are enacted before the individual spending bills take effect.
“We want to get to a conservative solution” on the budget, Parkinson says. “We’re not out here just to fight the Democrats. . . . We want to make sure we’re getting good conservative members to pitch their ideas.”
#related#Budget skirmishes aside, that mentality bodes well for developing a solid, working relationship between the RSC and House leadership, specifically regarding the task forces Ryan has named to develop the House’s conservative agenda. The RSC has its own cluster of task forces targeting areas including welfare reform and tax reform, and many of their members are also serving on Ryan’s conference-wide task forces. For Parkinson, that direct channel underscores one of the most valuable assets of the RSC: having immediate RSC input into the workings of House committees more broadly.
“We have an open line of communication with any of these committees,” Parkinson says. Ways and Means chairman Kevin Brady, for example, is an active member in the caucus. “Time will tell exactly what proposals come forward from these task forces. But our office has the ability to develop the conservative information that can advance the discussion.”
Ultimately, in the midst of a presidential race in which the definitions of conservatism are being challenged daily, Parkinson is prepared to steer his caucus above the fray.
“I want the organization and its members to remember why the RSC was founded in the first place,” he says.