When addressing a group of his closest supporters Saturday, U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows shared a blow-by-blow account of the last 100 days when his media profile, at times, rivaled that of President Donald Trump.
“A sweat breaks out on my forehead when I see the words ’breaking news.’ It’s been about me lately,” he said, telling those attending the 11th Congressional District Republican convention held at Pisgah High School it was nice to be among friends.
As chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, one of the most conservative group of legislators in the U.S. House of Representatives, Meadows was the face of the resistance to the March Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare on the seventh anniversary of its implementation.
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The battle fetched him 600 media requests for an interview in a single day after he was singled out in one of Trump’s tweets chiding him for not getting on board with the Republican plan.
“I never had any doubt standing for what is right would ultimately be the right thing to do, but I didn’t realize it would be so difficult, either,” he said.
The good news, Meadows told those attending the Saturday event, is that a health care vote is likely to be held this week. The even better news is the new proposal on the table will lower insurance premiums as much as 38 percent for those in their 50s and 60, and up to 50 percent overall, he said. That’s in contrast to the original American Health Care Act that would have raised insurance premiums for 74 percent of the residents in the 11th district, he told the enthusiastic crowd that gave him several standing ovations.
“Now is the time to get it done,” he said. “You pressured me, some gently, some not so gently. We will get it done by August.”
The House leadership pulled the American Health Care Act at the 11th hour last month when it was clear the votes weren’t there to pass it — a development largely placed at the feet of the Freedom Caucus and Meadows.
The back story
Meadows used his keynote convention speech as a chance to tell those who had been with him since the beginning of his political career the back story about his fight to “get health care right.”
The original bill, he said, was one many in the House hadn’t even read. The ambitious plan to hold a vote last month was derailed not only because of the Freedom Caucus opposition, but because it has become clear many Republicans believe Obamacare should stay, he said, including those who ran on a platform of repeal and replace.
“Many members of Congress have the backbones of a banana,” Meadows told the group, “but not in the 11th District. I will stand firm with the people who sent me to Washington. Sometimes it can get a little painful.”
That healthcare vote postponement set the stage for the “serious negotiations” that produced a much better bill, he said.
Meadows praised President Trump, saying the man never seems to sleep.
On the eve before the American Health Care Act vote was to occur, Meadows said he received an 11:05 p.m. call that lasted until after midnight, with a follow-up call at 6 a.m.
“This is a president that works around the clock. He will not give up until he gets it done,” he said.
During one of his calls, Meadows said he flat-out told the president the bill the party was backing was “a piece of crap.”
“He told me, ‘Mark, we’ve got to get this right for the American people, but we have got to get a vote,’” Meadows said.
Despite widespread media reports of the president singling out Meadows for his opposition to the bill and a presidential tweet saying the party must fight both the Freedom Caucus and the Democrats, Meadows downplayed his differences with the president.
Following the unflattering tweet, Meadows said he had two choices — become defensive and fight back or acknowledge the president’s frustration with the pace of Congress. He thought back to a call from the newly elected president who wanted nothing other than to make sure he (Meadows) was being treated well and chose the latter.
“The president and I have an extremely good relationship,” he said.
Meadows cited a recent piece in the “Wall Street Journal” titled “Mark Meadows’s First 100 Days” and called it an establishment piece designed to put a distance between him and the president.