Life After Congress: Robert S. Walker
Longtime Rep. Robert S. Walker’s career in Congress was marked by his fiery rhetoric, which also helped former Speaker Newt Gingrich become the first Republican to wield the gavel since the 1950s.
The former Pennsylvania lawmaker, along with Gingrich and other outspoken House Republicans, used C-SPAN to gain national attention by going on the offense against House Democratic leadership, eventually paving the way for Republicans to take control of the chamber.
When Gingrich became speaker in 1994, he rewarded Walker with a spot in leadership as chief deputy whip, although Walker was not able to secure election to majority whip, losing to Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas. Two years later, in 1996, Walker announced he would retire after 20 years in the House.
Walker’s kept busy since then. Upon leaving Congress in 1997, he joined the lobbying firm now known as Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associates, where he continues to work today.
“We’ve built this firm substantially since I arrived in 1997, and I have a very active list of clients so that keeps me plenty busy,” Walker told CQ Roll Call.
He added that in addition to his work on K Street, he makes a concerted effort to continue his commitment to public service.
Walker said he does that by serving on a number of commissions and boards related to aerospace policy, including a stint on the Commission on the Future of the Aerospace Industry. He was appointed to that role in 2001 by President George W. Bush.
Later, from 2004 until 2011, Walker served on the Department of Energy’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technical Advisory Committee.
Another line Walker added to his post-congressional résumé is his role as chairman of the Space Foundation, a nonprofit that puts on educational programs and industry events.
“I have found it to be very rewarding taking the experience that I had in Congress and translating it both to business and public service,” Walker said. “What I have found is that for them, having input for somebody who understood the rhythm of the Congress has been useful.”
He also stays active in politics, having served as the national chairman of Gingrich’s 2012 unsuccessful presidential run.
“I would’ve liked to have seen him become nominee,” Walker said of Gingrich. “We started pretty late in the process and never raised the kind of money that made him competitive with Mitt Romney. … But he is still the one figure in the party who has the capability of defining the direction of the country in broad historic terms.”
Walker’s role as a lobbyist and his positions within government agencies have kept him interested in the happenings of Congress, and he says he’s not too thrilled by what he sees.
“I’m very disappointed in where we are at the present time, and I think in large part it’s because we’ve spent 20 years or more moving more and more away from regular order,” said Walker, who was known for being a stickler for parliamentary procedure during his years on Capitol Hill. “Instead, we have moved to a pattern where the only major bills that get passed are continuing resolutions that are huge omnibus bills, that no one really understands all of what’s in them. That … has led to the dysfunction.”
Walker added that he likes the busy schedule he’s had since leaving Capitol Hill.
“I’m enjoying keeping busy, and I have no intention of retiring any time soon,” said Walker, who will turn 71 in December. “I just hope my health holds out.”
CQ Roll Call’s Life After Congress is designed to answer the question “Where are they now?” If that’s something you’ve asked yourself about a former member or members, drop us a line. We’ll do our best to track them down.