Meadows keeps pledge to make time for constituents
In his brief five months in Congress, U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-Cashiers, has kept busy — voting on several pieces of key legislation, sitting in on committee hearings, drafting bills of his own and when he can, traveling back to Western North Carolina.
“We have spent a lot of time trying to reach out to people back home,” Meadows said.
Meadows has 18 offices setup around Western North Carolina — one in every county he represents. It is an impressive testament to the constituent service he hangs his hat on and a record number of offices for a WNC Congressman. Still, finding time to return to the district and keep on top of constituent concerns and opinions is difficult.
“That has been the toughest thing trying to make sure you stay connected,” he said.
Unsurprisingly during his time in office, Meadows has strongly aligned himself with his party, voting nearly 97 percent of the time with fellow Republicans since taking office in January, according to OpenCongress.org, a nonprofit, non-partisan website that tracks members of Congress.
Based on his current voting record, Meadows has been labeled a moderate or centrist Republican. But it all depends on one’s point of view.
“Some would call me further right,” Meadows said. “What I hope that I am labeled is a member of Congress who doesn’t change his convictions but votes the will of the people.”
During and after his election, Meadows has repeatedly stated that he will vote with the people of Western North Carolina — unless it conflicts with his moral beliefs. Back in April, the U.S. House of Representatives was considering the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, a measure that some said would have further opened the door for the U.S. government to gather personal information on its own citizens.
Twenty minutes before the vote, Meadows said he didn’t know whether he would vote yay or nay.
“I don’t really know. We are still trying to figure out what people back home want and what is in the longer term best interest of our national security,” Meadows said at the time. “I am getting pressure from both sides.”
Before he headed out the door to vote on the matter, Meadows’ assistants handed him a paper detailing constituent thoughts. Whenever a vote is imminent, workers read emails, answer phone calls and distill what voters in the WNC’s 11th Congressional District think about a particular bill.
“If votes are coming up, the phones will ring off the hook,” Meadows said, estimating that in his first 100 days he received more than 10,000 communications, be it calls, letters or emails.
In the end, Meadows voted against CISPA — one of only five times that he has not voted with the Republican Party. The other times were votes on amendments to bills, not passage votes.
Other key votes thus far:
• Leaders with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians fought to get a new amendment added to the Violence Against Women Act. The amendment allows tribal courts to prosecute non-tribal members in cases of domestic violence. Despite this direct tie to his constituency, Meadows voted against reauthorizing the act.
He said it came down to the human trafficking portion of the bill. Some Republicans claimed that the bill eliminates protections for victims of human trafficking, while others said the reauthorized act actually expands aid to those victims.
“We gutted human trafficking,” Meadows said. “We put little girls at risk because of some language. I could not stand for that.”
• Meadows recently voted in favor of constructing of the Keystone XL pipeline, an estimated $7 billion private infrastructure project in Alaska.
“At a time when our economy is suffering and jobs are short supply, the Keystone XL pipeline will create thousands of American jobs and strengthen our energy security without requiring any federal dollars to build,” Meadows said in a release. “With families continuing to bear the financial strain of rising gas prices, it is time for our nation to take this overdue step toward energy independence.”
The U.S. State Department estimated that the project will create 42,100 jobs and generate 830,000 barrels of oil per day.
• Although attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act have failed 36 times before, members of the U.S. House voted on the matter again in May. It passed the House 229-to-195, with Meadows voting in favor of the repeal.
Meadows has introduced three bills since taking office, but none have gone to a vote. As a first-time Congressman, it is anything if not impossible, to move one of your own bills to the U.S. House floor.
“Bills by freshman are very difficult. That is a valid point,” Meadows said. But “I don’t want to make any excuses for not getting it done because I am a freshman.”
Like all politicians currently holding office, Meadows is receiving contributions from various interest groups and PACs that he can set aside for his re-election campaign in 2015. The congressman has $65,850 in his war chest, according to his most recent campaign finance report.
“As long as we are making a difference, I will continue to run,” he said.