President Donald Trump was elected to “drain the swamp”, a phrase that characterizes for many a federal government gridlocked by entrenched career politicians across the ideological spectrum. His supporters, the so-called base, continue to demand drainage but Trump encounters resistance at every turn. Swamp creatures are defiantly protective of their turf (or muck, to be more precise).
The Swamp overwhelmed the quest for Obamacare repeal early on. It was taken to its knees, finally, when Congress passed and Trump signed major tax cuts and reforms in late 2017. Other minor dredging has been accomplished here and there on Capitol Hill, yet along came the $1.3 trillion Omnibus spending bill. Even Trump was wearing waders at the signing ceremony for that spending fiasco.
Hours beforehand, Trump tweeted that he was tempted to veto the bill. The first entity to step forward in full support of a proposed veto was the House Freedom Caucus, a widely derided group of Republican lawmakers led by North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows (NC-11). Going back to the age of Obama, Meadows and the Caucus have stood shoulder to shoulder since 2015 as Swamp-busting contrarians, committed to “giving a voice to countless Americans who feel that Washington does not represent them” and “open, accountable and limited government.”
Understandably, Democrats and, less vocally, many Republicans dismiss the Caucus as a band of obstructionists on matters of spending and ideological flash points such as immigration control. “Very destructive,” writes Bloomberg’s Jonathan Bernstein. True conservatives applaud the refusal of Meadows & Co. to waiver, which typically is the signature of movements with staying power and, ultimately, real power.
As the Omnibus train was veering off the rails, Meadows and 24 others voted against bringing the bill to the floor, furious “that Republican leadership were only able to get (Trump) just over one-twenty-fifth of what he wanted for the construction of his long-promised border wall,” reported The Daily Caller. Said Meadows:
“Members of the Freedom Caucus chose to vote no, because this omnibus doesn’t just forget the promises we made to voters — it flatly rejects them.”
Meadows, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) penned an opinion piece in mid-March decrying yet another inclination by Republicans to accept business as usual. Despite the important elimination of the Obamacare mandate in the tax reform bill, policies remain under consideration that “would expand this healthcare disaster beyond even President Obama’s ambitions,” they wrote.
While still pending, Meadows et al are sounding the alarm — using a now well worn alarm button:
“One (proposal) would direct the Obama-created bailout known as cost-sharing-reduction (CSR) payments to go to ObamaCare insurance companies. Another would create an entirely new reinsurance program to funnel billions of taxpayer dollars directly to insurers in order to convince them to stick with ObamaCare.”
Who are the “destructive” ones in this scenario?
If there is a fray to enter, Meadows typically leads the charge into it. As a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, he’s become a go-to for Fox News programmers but is often seen on the Sunday show circuit as well. Most recently, he and Ohio’s Jordan were guests on FNC’s The Ingraham Angle to walk deeper into the fray surrounding calls for a new Special Counsel to investigate improprieties, and perhaps illegalities, committed by the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation leading to and after Trump’s election.
Meadows and Jordan recently reviewed a heavily redacted report by the DOJ, which is a first step toward assembling the puzzle that will confirm shady activity and communication by figures such as fired Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, demoted FBI official Peter Strzok, and former CIA Director John Brennan.
“On seven pages, there were 12 material facts — material facts, not just names — material facts that were omitted by the Department of Justice. It’s time they come clean and give us what we need. … This Department of Justice is not complying with the subpoena. … For the Attorney General (Jeff Sessions) to suggest that there is not enough ‘there’ there is extremely disappointing.”
The frequent refrain echoed by frustrated Republican voters is a simple request, “Do your jobs.” The entrenched Swampers argue the better measure of their performance is how often they “get things done”. Meadows consistently does his job, unapologetically. Which is good news for his North Carolina district and for those who want to see President Trump succeed. Fellow NC lawmakers in Washington would be wise to adopt Meadows’ tenacity.
In a profile written for Vox.com last August, Tara Golshan described Meadows’ sphere of influence in Washington:
“The reality of today’s Congress is that in the House of Representatives, the Freedom Caucus is in control of the Republican agenda — with Meadows at the helm. He leads a body that made its mark as an opposition force from within. But tasked with governing, Meadows has to decide whether his conservative principles supersede getting things done. He may have paved the way for (Paul) Ryan’s speakership, but it’s Meadows who stands in the way of every major Republican policy push.”
Conservatives stand with him.