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Meadows sees no repeat of shutdown

U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows enjoyed a Shriners pancake breakfast in Hendersonville on Oct. 19. U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows enjoyed a Shriners pancake breakfast in Hendersonville on Oct. 19.

There's nothing like a Shriners pancake breakfast to put the ill wind of Washington behind a battle-scarred congressman.


U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows chowed down on pancakes and sausage on Saturday morning, Oct. 19, with Henderson County Commissioner Tommy Thompson and Sheriff Charlie McDonald and their wives. Meadows was back home just two days after Congress and President Obama agreed to end the shutdown.
He looked unfazed by the media attention he won as "the architect of the shutdown," in the words of some coverage. The same day the freshman Republican had breakfast in Hendersonville, visited Waynesville's Apple Festival and the Pisgah Inn — which became a symbol of shutdown victims when it was forced to close — the Washington Post published story about Meadows and Hendersonville's reaction to his 30 seconds (maybe hours) of fame.
"I think all those people in Congress are idiots," Mike Tate, a 66-year-old retiree who voted for Meadows, told the Post reporter. "I feel they ought to be replaced."
That's unlikely happen to Meadows.
He's in one of the safest Republican districts in a purplish state that is now flush with safe Republican seats. The conventional model for a primary challenge — an ideological warrior with tea party support assaulting an incumbent from the right flank — has almost surely been closed off by Meadows' unassailable anti-Obamacare credential.
"We've turned down interviews with the BBC, from Al Jazeera, from media outlets in South America," he said in an interview with the Hendersonville Lightning. "All over the world people called us for interviews but really for us it was more about trying to tell the story about people back home and what Obamacare was doing to jobs, what it was doing to insurance. That was our big thing."
He led the effort in the House to use defunding of the reform law in exchange for a budget deal and debt ceiling increase. It didn't work.
"Once the shutdown happened, the story went from 'you're influencing' (the politics in Washington) to 'you're hurting people,' and that's why really once the shutdown happened we were trying to work with Democrats and work with the congressional liaison with the Obama administration trying to find some common ground," he said.
What's next?
He wants to help businesses dealing with the Affordable Care Act by redefining part-time workers.
"The second issue will be more of a religious freedoms issue" that "primarily would allow churches and faith-based institutions to buy health coverage that doesn't violate their conscience," he said. "The president and his congressional liaison both have said that they're willing to negotiate if he doesn't have a gun to his head. I'm going to take him at his word, that he's willing to negotiate. We'll see if that translates out."
Meadows said he is not expecting to be on the ramparts for the next shutdown drama.
"I don't see us shutting down the government," he said. "Nobody has an appetite. Having gone through it we don't want to see it again."
His strong involvement in the national debate was no strategy to please tea party supporters or protect his right flank, he said.
"I've really voted my conscience and voted the way people wanted me to," he said. "Even though the tea party supported (the defunding threat), the genesis was not with the tea party. It was really with the people back home. I started getting calls from all over" about problems with the Affordable Care Act. Callers "wanted us to fight for that."
"Within a couple of days of all this coming out with me being the architect of the shutdown I was getting recognition from the Nature Conservancy for leading on some conservation issues. When you really look at it, my goal is to try to represent everybody that I've got and be pragmatic about it."
Still, it's clear that Meadows has risen faster than many of his peers in the big Republican wave of 2010 and 2012. At age 54, the telegenic freshman could be seen as a logical candidate to move up. Yet he's been a congressman, his first elective office, for just nine months.
"I have no desire to run for statewide office," he said. "I love the people Western North Carolina. The more influence and power I have within Congress, the better I can get things done for people in my district. I've been encouraged to run for statewide office. That is not only a no but not even a consideration."