GOP policy chairman has hopeful vision while party in the minority: 'You don't run from a fight'


Rep. Gary Palmer didn’t have much growing up.

The Alabama Republican was the first in his family to go to college, and remembers winters where his childhood home was heated by a coal heater placed in the kitchen.

Mr. Palmer, 67, still sleeps in his office in Washington when Congress is in session, but as the chairman of the House GOP Policy Committee, he’s come a long way from the life he once knew.

His personal background, however, has heavily shaped his political thinking, and the lesson he passes down to young people reflects that.

“I want the kids growing up on the South Side of Chicago to have a vision for their future that’s no different than a kid growing up in the suburbs of Indianapolis or Birmingham or Dallas,” Mr. Palmer told The Washington Times. “I want them to feel like they can be somebody, that they can achieve something. They can have a good life.”

Mr. Palmer was first elected to the House in 2014, representing Alabama’s 6th Congressional District, comprised of mostly rural and suburban communities in the middle of the state.

The lawmaker served as the 18th chairman of the RPC during the 116th Congress, and was reelected to continue serving in the current class.

As chairman, Mr. Palmer helps steer the conversation around legislative proposals and issues led by the party’s conference, a position he said can be challenging while the party is in the minority.

“I cannot remember the last time we had a Republican amendment adopted, so it’s extraordinarily difficult to get things done, and the only thing you can get done is what they agree to let get done,” he said.

Among the areas Mr. Palmer wants to prioritize for his party are lowering health care costs, improving education opportunities and standards, and pushing back against expansive government programs pushed by Democrats.

The lawmaker particularly spoke out against the $3.5 trillion social spending bill, or President Biden’s Build Back Better plan, which he said offers a narrow view of the electorate.

Congress is still considering the Build Back Better package, though the long-debated $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill passed the House on Friday with bipartisan support.

Mr. Palmer did not vote in favor of the infrastructure bill, which many of his colleagues criticized for lacking funding for traditional infrastructure projects like roads and bridges.

“I think the policies that the Democrats are pushing are divisive,” Mr. Palmer said. “I think they literally have an arrogant, dismissive view of the average person. And they feel like they have to make these decisions for people. I don’t think that’s the case. I think people are, for the most part, capable of making their own decisions and directing their own lives.”

But, after a hopeful win for Republicans in the Virginia governor’s race and the party being in good standing to potentially reclaim a majority in the House in 2022, Mr. Palmer remains determined to keep pushing back, even if the results bear little fruit at the moment.

The lawmaker, who has no plans to retire his seat any time soon, said the goal right now is to give people an alternative vision to Democratic control.

“You don’t run from a fight,” Mr. Palmer said. “You don’t abandon your post because things are harder than you thought they’d be. Tough situations don’t build character. They reveal it. I don’t think any of us, particularly at this point in our country’s history, [are ready] to leave the fight.”

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