INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Monday warned that Republicans could suffer political consequences in the 2018 elections if they squander their new political dominance, calling on the Trump administration to dramatically reorient power back to the states.
“If they do the things they talk about, we see major tax reform and regulatory reform and pushing more power and responsibility not just to the states but the people, I think the midterms are going to fare pretty well,” Walker told more than 500 donors gathered for a conference hosted by the Koch network at a desert resort outside of Palm Springs, Calif.
“If they don’t, we’re in trouble,” said the governor, who lost his 2016 presidential bid. He added: “It’s put up or shut up time. And now’s the time for us to have to deliver, because we finally have a Republican administration and House and Senate.”
Walker was part of a group of GOP state leaders who addressed the donor conclave Monday morning. Their common theme: President Trump should roll back federal authority and turn funding for domestic policies over to the states.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said he raised the topic when he met with Trump after he secured the nomination last year. “Both he and Hillary were talking as if each of them would be the better leader or manager of the big federal bureaucracy,” Ducey said. “I said, ‘Hey … why don’t you push all this stuff back to the states and focus on defense and foreign policy?’”
Ducey said he was confident that Vice President Pence, a former governor of Indiana, would make that case forcefully inside the administration. But it remains to be seen whether Trump, who has often embraced the notion of a powerful federal government, shares the vision of state Republicans.
Among them: newly elected Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, who said it was time to “push the federal government back to its secondary role.” Hawley said his state was already filing lawsuits challenging federal authority.
“We are saying to the unaccountable, unelected bureaucracy in Washington that we are going to stand up for the people of Missouri, for our small businesses, our workers and our farmers against you, and if that means going to court every day of the week, that’s exactly what we’re going to do until the people of Missouri get relief,” he said.
Walker went even further, saying he wants to see more than Medicaid waivers for states. He urged the federal government to divert funds that go to fund education, transportation, environmental and energy policy out of Washington.
“We’ve got a long list of waivers and other things that we want right away, but if the new normal, if you will, of having a Republican administration, a House and a Senate, two-thirds of all the governors in America being Republican [and] two-thirds of all the state legislatures being Republican is going to lead to anything, it can’t just be a few waivers,” Walker said.
“We are much, much more accountable at the state and local level than anybody in Washington, regardless of party, and one of the best things we can do is take advantage of the circumstances we’re in and not just look for a little bit of help, but look for transformational change,” he added.
No one from the Trump administration attended this weekend's conclave. However, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner participated in Monday's forum along with Walker, Ducey and Hawley. Five Republican senators also made appearances: Patrick J. Toomey (Pa.), David Perdue (Ga.), Ben Sasse (Neb.), Mike Lee (Utah) and James Lankford (Okla.). And two House members, Jason Chaffetz (Utah) and Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), traveled to the gathering.