Mark Meadows visits WCU political science class

Congresman Mark Meadows talked to political science students on April 10, 2017. Photo by Meredith Whitfield.

North Carolina congressman Mark Meadows (R) spoke to a political science class at Western Carolina University on Monday, April 10, discussing health care, tax reform, Syria and other issues.

Meadows is the leader of the congressional group known as the Freedom Caucus that was one of the main opponents of the Republican health care bill that was pushed by Speaker Paul Ryan and President Trump and was pulled from the floor of the House of Representatives on Friday March 24 2017.

Meadows and his caucus argued that the bill was too much like Obamacare and not conservative enough. One of the main reasons there were so many different views on the bill was because house leadership basically hid the legislative text of the bill until the last minute even though they had seven years to work on it.

In the follow-up questions from the students, he further explained how this bill was introduced as an example of how it’s not done.

“The first time I heard about the health care bill was through details on it being leaked through Politico. That is not how the legislative process is supposed to work. You are supposed to have a markup and the bill then grows organically from an idea with rank and file members. That did not happen. That is part of why this plan has a 17 percent approval rating. Because it was written without much input from either side.”

Congressman Meadows also went on to further explain why he was against the bill.

“Even though this plan was a GOP-led plan, I went on to do the numbers,” he explained to students. “When this plan was originally rolled out it would have hurt more than 74 percent of the people that I represent. I could not support something that would have hurt almost three-fourths of my constituents.”

Republicans have been trying to rework the new health care bill and Meadows has said that congress is close to getting a deal done. One of the changes was a recent amendment that would give 15 billion to cover sick patients with costly health care needs.

Tax reform

The issue of tax reform is being pushed by the administration as the next big project once health care has finally been taken care of. Meadows addressed tax reform when asked about it by a student.  Representative Meadows said that health care showed how things should not be done.

“I think we have learned a lesson that we need to have not only the details of it but also real discussion through hearings. Tax reform could be a “big bear” as well,” Meadows explained adding that he’s been talking to the president and the vice president about that. “We all want lower taxes but there are a lot of details that go along with that.”

Syria and U.S. involvement

One of the students asked Meadows about his opinion on Syria and how the administration responded to the latest chemical attack on the Syrian people by their dictator Bashar Al Assad. Meadows said that when the previous administration asked him to support an air strike against the Syrian regime he refused to give support because people he represented were against it.

“At that time, over 80 percent of my district said that was not the thing to do. When Vice President Biden asked me about it I said I can’t back him on that because my district is not for it.”

Congressman Meadows also said that he believed that having a measured military response this time around was appropriate because it was “a measured response in going after military operations and not people.” He also stated that it would not be enough and that the US would need to set up safe zones in Syria.

Another topic that was brought up during the class was the reform of the Veteran’s Administration. Meadows said that those efforts have bipartisan support but not a clear way of how to get there.

“Unfortunately, this problem is still not solved. We have a system from the 50s and 60s. When I got into Congress, the average wait time for a claim was over 367 days. We have now gotten that down to around 105 days, which is better but still not nearly good enough. It is a priority. Hopefully, we get it done within the next couple of years, but we have not made nearly enough progress.”

Meadows then went on to make closing remarks. They were almost the opposite from his opening remarks. In his opening, Meadows took a comical approach when addressing the experience he had when President Trump tweeted about him.

“I was flying back from Washington D.C to North Carolina,” said Meadows. “Somewhere in between Washington D.C and Charlotte, there was a tweet that came out that mentioned my name. My phone started going crazy and I was wondering what was going on. It was from the president. We had 600 media requests after that. I could have gone on any news show in the nation.”

When Meadows was wrapping up he took a  more serious tone, even though it still brought a little bit of a chuckle from students. He compared being in congress to “Lord of the Rings.”

“Are any of you Lord of the rings fans? There are many people in congress who act like their job in congress is their ‘precious.’ They hold onto it no matter what and it consumes them and takes over. We need to make sure our job in congress does not control us like that. If we do that then ultimately things will go well,” he said.

Congress is currently in recess, but members of congress will fly back to Washington D.C. at the beginning of the final week of April. They will then resume talks on health care. Hopefully, the Freedom Caucus and Mark Meadows will finally be able to make a deal with the rest of congress. Maybe now there will be more of a willingness to work together, especially knowing that President Trump has finally quit tweeting about our now very famous congressman.

Hear the full recording from the class (48 minutes).