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Leadership boots Meadows from committee chair

U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows speaks at a gathering in this file photo. U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows speaks at a gathering in this file photo.

In apparent reprisal for his votes that impeded their aims for moving legislation, House leaders have stripped U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows of a subcommittee chairmanship he has used to champion government reform and attack the IRS.

House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz last week
booted Meadows from the chairmanship of the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations, a leadership role that had given Meadows a platform on issues such as the IRS investigation and public sector labor unions.
“Sometimes the coach needs to make a change on the field,” Chaffetz, R-Utah, told Politico, which first published the story. “He’s still a valuable contributor, and I really like Mark Meadows, he’s a good person. But I need to make a change.”
The Politico story said the action against Meadows was “among the most serious punishments thus far in Speaker John Boehner’s” tenure leading the House. “Boehner and his leadership team have grown frustrated with Republicans who vote against the procedural ‘rule’ motion.”

Meadows fired back on Monday night, saying he'd rather lose a committee chairmanship than vote against what he perceives as the wishes of constituents in the 11th Congressional District.

"They asked me one thing" when he was elected, he said. "When I went to Washington, D.C., to not forget where I came from and remember who sent me there. When I vote the way they asked me to vote — and this was clearly the way they asked me to vote — it was very clear that this was the vote that I had to take. If giving up a chairmanship is the price I have to pay for voting with the people of Western North Carolina then I gladly pay it.”

Meadows, 55, said Chaffetz acknowledged he had to oust him under pressure from the Republican leadership.

“Chaffetz told me that it was a vote against the rule (to move the trade bill) and a decision that I made back in February not to give any more money to the NRCC (National Republican Congressional Committee) after a PAC that was closely aligned with the speaker started running ads against me,” the second-term congressman said. “Those two things were according to Chairman Chavetz why he decided to remove me from my chairmanship. But it was under great pressure from the leadership, according to him, and the steering committee. It was really about trying to make sure that I stay in line and vote the party line instead of voting my conscience and what the people of Western Carolina asked me to do.”

He had not voted no on a procedural rule 2½ years, he said, but this time he could not stomach the maneuvering.

“This particular rule had more twists and turns than a Rold Gold pretzel," he said. "It was designed to allow the Republicans one way against the measure and allow the Democrats to vote another way and give the appearance that you were against something when you were really for it. I just felt like it lacked transparency. The four voting no called out leadership and told them we had a problem with the rule.” They asked for a meeting with the Republican conference to talk it out. Instead, the leadership secured the votes from Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and pushed the vote through, he said.

Asked whether being in the doghouse hurts his effectiveness, Meadows remained defiant.

“In terms of advancing up the leadership ranks, clearly it doesn’t allow me to advance up the leadership ranks," he said. "But if the only power I had before was what the gentleman from Ohio allowed me to have, it was the illusion of power anyway. The tenacious spirit that I have is not going to go away. If anything it becomes bolder. I’ve had a number of calls from colleagues across the country who are not only willing to help, they’re willing to stand with me as we try to get rid of this punitive culture that exists on Capitol Hill.”

“I’m considered a very strong leader within the conservative movement so a shot across my bow will certainly strike fear in the hearts of other people,” he said. “It’s not creating a fear in me and it’s doing the opposite for a number of conservative colleagues. They’re up in arms. A couple of presidential candidates — Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee — have come out saying it was wrong. We’ve had literally thousands of phone calls from across the country supporting the decision as well as from Hendersonville, North Carolina.”

“Some of my more conservative members as well as more liberal members of my constituent base” repeated the message “that this was not good for jobs in Western North Carolina,” he said of the trade bill that gives President Obama "fast track" authority to pursue agreements.

The motions, which clear the way for debate and a floor vote on bills, typically sail through along party lines. Politico reported that the leadership had grown frustrated with the defiance of a group of conservative House members to which Meadows belongs. Meadows is a founding member of the so-called Freedom Caucus, which works to pressure House leaders to enact conservative measures and supports “open, accountable and limited government, the Constitution and the rule of law, and policies that promote the liberty, safety, and prosperity of all Americans,” according to its mission statement.

The Government Operations Subcomittee chairmanship was Meadows's highest profile position.
Former Arkansas governor and 2016 Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee issued a statement on Monday supporting Meadows.

"In the face of enormous pressure from the House GOP leadership to vote for ObamaTrade, Congressman Meadows voted his conscience," Huckabee said. "For this act, he was punished by party leaders and lost his subcommittee chairmanship."

"I salute Congressman Mark Meadows for his backbone, courage and commitment to North Carolina workers. President Obama can't be trusted to negotiate a deal on a fishing rod at a flea market, let along a multi-trillion dollar trade agreement with Asia that could cost North Carolina thousands of jobs.   If the trade bill is going to create so many jobs, why did Congress add a provision to help all who will lose their jobs because of it?

"Congressman Meadows values convictions over committee assignments, principle over politics, and service to American over service for himself. In my book, you should be lauded — not loathed. Well done Congressman, well done!"