JOHN YANG: Divisions within the Republican Party only deepened after President Trump sided with Democrats on a big fiscal deal, angering many on the right.
One of those critics was Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina, the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. He was one of 90 House Republicans to vote against raising the debt ceiling, funding the government and passing Hurricane Harvey aid.
I spoke with Representative Meadows a little while ago and asked him if the president’s deal means he will bypass Republicans on the Hill to get things done.
REP. MARK MEADOWS, R-N.C.: Well, I think that any time that you draw that conclusion, you’re extrapolating out perhaps a scenario that is not justified in this particular case.
But the president is going to make a deal, and he’s going to make a deal with anybody who can actually put legislation on his desk. The Republicans have not been exactly stellar in that particular category.
And so for us, I don’t see it as a trend as much as it is a necessary evil on this particular time. We had a debt ceiling that was coming up. Harvey relief had to pass because of the devastation there in Texas, and so, as we see this, I am not to concerned. I think we need to negotiate in good faith.
I talked to the president about not only that vote, but about what he wanted to see for the remaining months here between now and January, and he’s all focused about tax reform. So he was seeing it as clearing the deck for tax reform. We look forward to working with him and even our Democrat colleagues on that measure.
JOHN YANG: Let me ask you about something The Wall Street Journal editorial page wrote last week, and I suspect you know what’s coming.
In an editorial, they said — they described the Freedom Caucus this way: “Claim to be cooperative, to be working constructively toward some legislative compromise, but then at a criminal moment, raise its demand vote no, and blame leadership.”
What’s your response?
REP. MARK MEADOWS: Well, it would be real nice if the editorial board actually talked to me. I have been in Congress over five years.
John, I have now talked to you more than I have talked to the editorial board with The Wall Street Journal. They never called. They never reached out.
So to quote six unnamed sources, to lay out narrative that wasn’t only false, but dreadfully false, I can tell you that we’re there to try to get something on the president’s desk. You might remember that it was Tom MacArthur and myself, working with moderates and conservatives, that actually put forth an amendment that got the bill out of the House and sent over to the Senate on the health care debate.
And so I don’t know that — well, I can just tell you The Wall Street Journal editorial board took great liberties without even giving us a call.
JOHN YANG: Do you support Speaker Ryan?
REP. MARK MEADOWS: Certainly, we support Speaker Ryan.
We have meetings with him on a weekly basis, multiple meetings. It’s all about getting things done. You know, this is not a question about leadership. It’s the lack of results. You know, one of my favorite quotes is, no matter how beautiful the strategy, you must occasionally look at the results.
And I would say that when I was back home in North Carolina during the month of August, there weren’t a whole lot of results that we were getting applauded for, in fact, quite the opposite. So it’s time that we get some things done, put it on the president’s desk, and be serious about this administration’s agenda.
JOHN YANG: Well, let’s talk about results then. You talked about taxes, that that’s what the president is focused on between now and January.
REP. MARK MEADOWS: Right.
JOHN YANG: From your point of view, from the Freedom Caucus point of view, what’s going to define victory on the tax legislation?
REP. MARK MEADOWS: Well, on the tax legislation, we need to make sure that on the personal income side of things, the hardworking American taxpayers, your viewers, that they actually get more of their money in their pocket and they get to keep more of it.
And then so really being very aggressive and making sure that those rates are lower. Additionally, it’s all about making sure that we’re competitive. And the president talks about a growth agenda. So it’s making sure that our companies and our multinationals can compete globally, but also making sure that what we do is make sure that our tax rate is competitive with the rest of the world.
And so it’s being very aggressive. We support — or I have supported a 15 percent to 16 percent corporate rate. It doesn’t appear we are going to be that low, but at the same time we need to be aggressive and make sure that we put Americans back to work.
JOHN YANG: The president has also asked Congress to do something about the dreamers, to protect these young people who were brought into the country illegally when they were children.
REP. MARK MEADOWS: Right. Right.
JOHN YANG: What would you be willing to support in that area?
REP. MARK MEADOWS: You know, we’re working right now on legislature. One of the things, when we deal with the dreamers, or DACA issue, as you might mention, it really all starts with a secure southern border, something that we haven’t had.
Today, we’re talking about some 800,000 dreamers that would qualify under that deferred action plan. But if we don’t secure our southern border, how many are we talking about? A million, two million, five million, what’s the number? So, if we’re going to address it, we need to address it comprehensively.
I spoke to the president yesterday on this very subject. And what it is, is really working with our colleagues, both Democrats and Republicans, to find a way to not only have a secure border, for national security purposes, as well as immigration, but also to look at how to do it in a fair and compassionate way.
You know, I have challenged my staff as recent as this morning for us to look at it and see how we can work together. So, I think that you will see legislation coming out in the coming months, obviously, well ahead of this six-month deadline that was put forth in his executive order.
JOHN YANG: Does that necessarily mean a wall, when you say border security?
REP. MARK MEADOWS: It could define a wall. I think for a lot of the Trump voters, it does mean a wall. But really it’s more about a secure southern border, how we regulate and monitor who is coming to our country and who is not.
I get the talk to some of my colleagues who are in some of the border states. They have some great ideas, and some of their ideas do not include a wall. So it’s all about making sure that we can do what’s best for the national security of the American people. And, hopefully, we can get there and be prudent, but yet prompt about getting that done.
JOHN YANG: Representative Mark Meadows, thank you very much for joining us.
REP. MARK MEADOWS: Thank you, John. Good to be with you.