Free­dom Cau­cus chair sets agenda, even if di­vi­sive

Against Trump tar­iff, for Oba­macare re­peal

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI

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.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

House Free­dom Cau­cus Chair Mark Mead­ows said he ex­pects in­ter­nal squab­bles de­spite Repub­li­cans set to take the White House and hold Con­gress.

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