Meadows listens to constituents at town hall meetings
U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, sporting an Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians button, hosted a town hall meeting last Thursday in Cherokee that he said was the “most vocal” he has held in the district.
Meadows, R-Cashiers, has made the rounds during the last two weeks, hosting meetings with constituents to answer their questions and field their opinions on various matters.
“You want to allow for differences of opinions,” Meadows said.
The most popular topics at the town halls have been the Affordable Care Act, immigration and government waste. It was no different at his Cherokee town hall, which Meadows postulated might be the first ever held on the Qualla Boundary. The crowd of about 50 was a mixture of enrolled members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and Jackson County residents.
The goal of the town halls was to gather as much feedback as possible.
“We have tried to be open and transparent and get feedback,” Meadows said. “There have been some good, constructive opinions. We have an open-door policy and truly want to serve you.”
While the town hall in Cherokee was orderly for the most part, the only major back and forth came during the second question of the night. If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, what recourse will uninsured North Carolina residents have?
“We will have to replace that,” Meadows said, but with a better system.
Right now the full effects — both negative and positive — of the health care law commonly known as Obamacare are unknown. Meadows said that even under the Affordable Care Act some Americans would remain uninsured.
“Even under Obamacare, 31 million people will not be covered,” he said, citing new estimates from the Congressional Budget Office, which provides a nonpartisan look at the effects of legislation.
According to a budget office report, the Affordable Care Act will reduce the number of uninsured by 25 million through Medicaid expansion and health insurance exchanges, but another 31 million will still not carry health insurance.
In many cases, Meadows said, people will still not purchase health insurance even though it is mandatory under the law. He contended that a healthy 30-year-old would likely pay the $95 penalty imposed by the federal government on those without insurance rather than pay a $300 a month premium for health care.
Meadows also said that some companies are cutting back the hours of workers so they qualify as part-time. Employers are only required to provide health insurance to full-time employees
A woman for the audience countered that the government should make it illegal for the businesses to do so and verbally chastised Meadows for not supporting the Affordable Care Act.
Shawn O’Neill asked Meadows about his stance on immigration. The congressman stated that he would like to see the federal government revise its immigration process to be less burdensome on those who want to come to the U.S.
“I’m for working on a comprehensive immigration reform that solves the problem, fixes it, once and for all. We need a simple program that works very efficiently,” Meadows said.
It has been widely reported in the media that residents from certain countries, such as Mexico, end up on waiting lists and have to wait years to legally immigrate. Meadows does not support what he called an “amnesty” program for those who did not wait and instead crossed the border illegally.
Meadows took a moment to point out a man, a constituent, in the audience who had legally immigrated to the U.S. and put in countless hours to do so.
“I don’t oppose immigration,” Meadows said. “I just don’t want a special pathway to citizenship. … I think it cheapens the process they go through.”
The congressman added that he does not support the immigration bill put forth in the U.S. Senate that would create a way for millions of undocumented immigrants currently in the country to receive citizenship. It would also give money to border security and start new visa programs for foreign workers.
Energy, Egypt and education
Jackson County resident Jim Mueller asked Meadows why the president has done so little to make the U.S. energy independent.
While Meadows said he wouldn’t pretend to know Obama’s reasoning, he asserted his own support for drilling in the U.S., calling the country “the Saudi Arabia of natural gas.” He said that the only way to lower gas prices is if the U.S. starts tapping into the oil under its surface.
An audience member raised concerns, however, about fracking, a method for extracting natural gas from beneath the surface, and its effects on the environment. Meadows countered that the country could access plenty of natural gas without using the controversial method.
“Even without fracking, we probably have a 200-year supply,” Meadows said.
The recent uprising in Egypt has put that country in the spotlight, and since Meadows is a member of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, attendees were curious about his thoughts on the ongoing strife in the African country.
Meadows said he is in favor of suspending military aid to Egypt.
“To say it was not a coup is ridiculous,” Meadows said. “I am really for cutting it off at this point.”
However, Meadows also said he supports the Camp David Accords, a 1970s agreement signed by the U.S., Egypt and Israel that ended a war over the Gaza Strip and sent billions in aid to the two countries.
Meadows also fielded questions about education. The U.S. House recently passed a measure that would roll back the No Child Left Behind program and Common Core State Standards Initiative, both of which Meadows said did more harm than good for education.
“We are hopeful that Senate will take it up,” Meadows said. “I think it will be a good thing if it’s implemented.”
In 2010 and 2011, individual states adopted a similar curriculum for its schools that gave all students a consistent education.
“It came down to governors who said this is a great common core of curriculum,” Meadows said. But, things went awry when the federal government decided to attach money to the program, he added.
Instead, the federal government should have allowed school superintendents to make education decisions based on what is best for the students instead of being influenced by the possibility of funding.