Freedom Caucus chair sets agenda, even if divisive
Against Trump tariff, for Obamacare repeal
Rep. Mark Meadows, the newly elected chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, signaled this week his group won’t hold back its intraparty criticism even with Republicans poised to take control of the White House and both Houses of Congress early next year.
He said conservatives will push for the quickest possible repeal and replacement of Obamacare, but said Tuesday that he and fellow Freedom Caucus members aren’t likely to support President-elect Donald Trump’s call to impose tariffs on companies who move their operations out of the United States.
“I think, in general, most of our members would be against tariffs [and] would not support that,” the North Carolina Republican said on CNN. “That’s why you have two different branches — an executive branch and [a] legislative branch. We’ve got to work together to make sure that jobs are [a] priority, and I think that you’ll find that in the first 200 days.”
Mr. Meadows did applaud Mr. Trump, however, for saying that Boeing is charging taxpayers too much for a new Air Force One production line.
As congressional Republicans plot how they’re going to handle a President Trump, some of the campaign’s differences have been papered over.
But Mr. Meadows signaled rifts remain not only with Mr. Trump but also within the fractious House GOP, where internecine battles led to the ouster in 2015 of then-Speaker John A. Boehner and helped scuttled the spending process this year.
One early fight next year will be over the pace of replacing Obamacare.
Mr. Meadows said members of the Freedom Caucus, composed of about three dozen conservatives, want the process done over the next two years. Reports had suggested some GOP leaders were thinking of a three-year replacement plan, which would stretch beyond the next midterm congressional elections.
“The Freedom Caucus will be pushing for a shorter time frame on that,” Mr. Meadows said.
He also recently told the Asheville CitizenTimes he expects to get to work on regulatory reform, but said Mr. Trump could run into opposition in the House if he tries to pass a $1 trillion infrastructure bill without providing a way to pay for it.
Mr. Meadows, first elected in 2012, also sits on the House oversight and foreign affairs committees, and gained notoriety for moving to oust then-Speaker Boehner. There wasn’t a formal vote, but Mr. Boehner announced his resignation in September 2015, clearing the way for Mr. Ryan to assume the speakership.
Rep. Jim Jordan, the outgoing Freedom Caucus chairman, praised Mr. Meadows, saying in a statement that he “has a passion for conservative principles and for serving his district and ordinary Americans across the country who feel forgotten by Washington.”
Though he’s already indicated differences with both Mr. Trump and House GOP leadership, Mr. Meadows also said in a recent interview that people should recognize the energy in last month’s election had more to do with Mr. Trump than it did with Mr. Ryan and the House GOP agenda.
“I can tell you that the people spoke on Nov. 8, and if anybody were to suggest that the ‘better way’ agenda was driving the American agenda, that wouldn’t be the case,” Mr. Meadows said on Fox Business Network, referring to the “Better Way” GOP agenda Mr. Ryan tried to promote on the campaign trail.
“We must not mistake the fact that those Rust Belt states actually made a very defining choice to go with Donald Trump, and we need to make sure that we recognize that and work on that agenda,” he said.
House Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows said he expects internal squabbles despite Republicans set to take the White House and hold Congress.