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Boehner and Cantor distance themselves from Walden

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Thursday distanced themselves from House GOP campaign chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who on Wednesday called President Obama's budget a "shocking attack on seniors."

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 30: U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) speaks during a news conference (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
House Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Boehner said that, while he doesn't like Obama's budget and doesn't see it as a serious compromise bill, he is "encouraged" by Obama's move toward entitlement reform.

“I’ve made it clear that I disagreed with what Chairman Walden said,” Boehner said, noting that he has spoken to Walden personally. “This is the least we must do to begin to solve the problem of Social Security.”

Cantor also spoke with Walden, and his spokesman said Cantor believes Obama's "chained CPI" reform -- which is at the heart of his entitlement changes -- should be on the table.

"The leader believes chained CPI is one reform that must be considered in order to save Social Security for today's seniors and future generations," the spokesman, Rory Cooper, said.

Walden, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, criticized the Obama budget's effect on seniors in an extended interview with CNN on Wednesday and hasn't backed off those comments.

"Chairman Walden supports the budget passed by House Republicans that preserves and protects Medicare and Social Security while also balancing the budget in 10 years," NRCC spokesman Andrea Bozek said Thursday before Boehner's remarks. "He disagrees with President Obama’s political plan that hurts current seniors just so he can pay for more wasteful spending.”

As I noted over at The Fix, Republicans are concerned that Walden's comments will scare Democrats away from the negotiating table on entitlements by suggesting that Republicans will use the unpopular proposal against Democrats in the 2014 election.

The fiscally conservative Club for Growth, meanwhile, has added Walden to its list of the members it would like to recruit primary challengers to run against.

"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 statement released shortly before Boehner's news conference.

Updated at 2:16 p.m. with the comments from Cantor's spokesman.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.

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