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Oregon Rep. Greg Walden: A handy man working to implement goals of GOP leaders
"He's been kind of my go-to guy here over the last year, and everything I've given him, he's done a great job," Boehner said.
Walden is among about two dozen key advisers who make up Boehner's inner circle. At its core are several veteran staffers, as well as a handful of GOP lawmakers, including Rep. Tom Latham (Iowa) and Sen. Richard Burr (N.C.), who serve as Boehner's eyes and ears among the rank-and-file in both chambers.
Sometimes dubbed "BoehnerLand," this orbit also makes up Boehner's social network - his golf buddies and steakhouse companions - and includes some former aides who are now lobbyists.
'Be ready to govern'
This fall, as Walden cruised toward reelection and was preparing for his victory party with supporters in Medford, Ore., Boehner gave him a call. Boehner knew Republicans had a good chance of winning control of the House, and he asked Walden to chair his transition committee - and to be in Washington on election night.
"You're not supposed to 'measure the drapes' ahead of time; however, if you win, you're supposed to be ready to govern the next day," Walden said. "So there's this interesting kabuki dance you do."
So Walden ditched his own party to emcee Boehner's celebration at the Hyatt on Capitol Hill. (He addressed his Oregon supporters via Skype, celebrating through a laptop camera with Boehner at his side.)
By 10 the next morning, a transition office had been assembled in the Capitol basement with phones, computers, desks and the GOP's "Pledge to America" pasted on a freshly painted white wall. Walden's wife, Mylene, helped answer the phones before a full staff was in place.
"There's this interesting switch that gets flipped, and the campaign warfare has to stop and the governing has to start," Walden said. "You have to have that mental ability to pivot instantly, because if you keep up the campaign rhetoric, then you're a bad winner or loser. You park the weaponry of political campaigns and you govern."
Walden said that he is trying to put practicality above partisanship - which has not gone unnoticed by Democrats.
"He takes the institution and the job very seriously," said outgoing Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.), whose office is across the hall from Walden's. "He's a man of complete integrity. . . . They didn't have to put someone like that in that position. They could've chosen someone who is a hardball, cutthroat political operative."
Walden has consulted some Democrats, even though they can't set the rules anymore. Rep. Michael E. Capuano (D-Mass.), who chaired his party's 2006 transition, said he offered this wisdom to Walden: "The majority will not be the majority forever, and the majority should treat the minority as they would want to be treated when they're in the minority."
Some of the changes that Walden's committee is considering were introduced in the "Pledge to America," the Republican House leaders' governing document that was released this fall. Among the priorities: to publish the text of legislation online for at least three days before a floor vote; to require the authors of each bill to cite a specific constitutional authority; to let any lawmaker offer amendments that would reduce spending; and to advance major bills one at a time.