Meadows fields tough questions
Congressman Mark Meadows, R-NC, 11th District, answered some tough questions from his constituents Tuesday night during a town hall meeting held at Haywood Community College.
The town hall meeting was one of 10 that Meadows has planned throughout communities in his district. He promised the audience, about 150 people, during his open remarks that he would answer the submitted questions as openly and honestly as he could.
Meadows addressed several key issues in Washington, D.C., including health care, immigration, regulations, national debt and deficit and IRS and Benghazi investigations.
Meadows spoke a lot about the ineffectiveness of government, which prompted one resident to ask about the effectiveness of Congress’ attempts to repeal “Obamacare” 40 times.
“It’s not effective,” Meadows admitted, adding he only voted three or four times to repeal. However, he said the $2.6 trillion that would be added to the nation’s debt because of the law was a serious issue that needed to be addressed.
He said the Affordable Care Act would only cover 19 million of the current 50 million Americans without health insurance and force young, healthy adults to pay two to three times as much for coverage.
“It penalizes Americans for not getting insurance,” he said. His comments received a few “not true!” responses from the audience.
In an interview with Meadows before the town hall meeting, he said the health care reform was not ready to be implemented and was not fair because it exempts certain people.
President Barack Obama has been quoted as saying that implementing any program requires some “tweaking,” but Meadows said that health care was too important to get wrong.
“I think if you asked members of Congress, most of them would have a hard time explaining the nuances of (Obamacare),” he said.
At this point, Meadows said he is trying to garner support to have parts of the reform defunded so it can’t be implemented at this point. U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., has argued that such a move could “shut down the government” by putting a hold on passing the federal budget, but Meadows disagrees.
“We can fund everything in government with the exception of this,” he said. “If we delay implementation for the individual mandate and allow changes to the program, that’s probably the best we can hope for.”
Debt and deficit
Many people in the audience were concerned about the nation’s debt and deficit and asked Meadows about how to solve the growing problem. He answered that there were plenty of opportunities for savings that no one was acting upon.
“We’re in a tight fiscal time, yet we’re not being good managers of the process,” he said. “$200 billion is spent on duplicitous services in different agencies.”
He also said the inspector generals of each department, whose job it is to recommend cost-saving measures, have identified $69 billion in savings that has not been implemented.
However, he said the $1 trillion deficit appeared to be dropping to about $600 billion this year — which is a start.
“We’re spending more than we take in,” he said. “We have to raise taxes or raise revenue by growth, but we can’t fix the deficit problem until we fix the job problem.”
Meadows clarified that two votes were coming up — Sept. 30 marks a new fiscal year and Congress will pass appropriations to make sure government is funded. The debt-ceiling vote will be Oct. 1.
When asked if he would support raising the debt ceiling again, Meadows said adding to the debt wasn’t his biggest concern as long as there was a plan in place to pay it off. For example, he said a house mortgage is a large debt but you have a plan to pay it off over 30 years. But the federal government keeps adding to the principal, making it impossible to pay off.
“I want a plan in place that will allow us to decrease spending and pay off the debt,” he said.
When asked if he supported the Senate’s immigration reform, Meadows said he didn’t because the legislation got too big. The House would prefer to address immigration in a series of bills on topics like border control and a path to citizenship as opposed to the Senate’s comprehensive bill.
“I’m not against reform — we’ve got a problem that must be fixed but (the bill) has so much stuff I’m not sure it’s effective,” he said. He said the issues should be addressed in sections to address all the problems once and for all.
While he understands the agriculture industry’s need for migrant workers, he said he is not in favor of amnesty. Meadows said he was in favor of fixing the process for people to become U.S. citizens no matter what country they are coming from.
Farm Bureau has a seven-point plan that Meadows supports. He said the plan doesn’t take American jobs and allows undocumented workers to come out of hiding.
He believes people who come to America to work and better their lives should have a more efficient way to citizenship “because that’s the American dream.”
Explaining his opposition
While the attendees at the meeting seemed generally supportive, some challenged Meadows to explain why he voted against important bills like the Violence Against Women Act and the Hurricane Sandy Relief bill.
He said his opposition to Sandy relief was not out of lack of compassion but all the additional things included in the bill. One vote was to increase the lending limits for FEMA to $7 billion, but the actual claims for Sandy were only $2.4 billion.
The second vote included approving $60 billion in Sandy aid and included $30 million worth of damage that was already covered by private insurance.
“I had a problem with that… Hurricane Katrina was worse and received $65 billion,” he said. “It was a tough vote for me to take… and I stand by it.”
Meadows said he voted against the Violence Against Women Act first version because certain protections for Native Americans were not included that Cherokee in his district wanted. He said he voted against the final version because “the bill gutted human trafficking from an international standpoint.”
He said it cut funding from $7 million to $2 million and tracking would only be done regionally. While voting in favor would have been the safe thing to do, he said his conscience wouldn’t let him do it.