“Show real leadership.”
That was House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows’s message for House Republican leaders Friday, as he and former HFC chairman Jim Jordan took the stage at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.
The North Carolina and Ohio Republicans had been scheduled to answer questions Friday morning before President Donald Trump’s CPAC speech, but the program was running behind, so they went on after Trump, who spoke for more than an hour.
“That was not scripted,” Meadows said of Trump’s speech, noting he could see the teleprompter. “About 90 percent of that was from his heart.”
In one of those heartfelt moments, Trump looked for Meadows in the crowd and called him and Jordan “warriors.”
The Freedom Caucus leaders are preparing for a potential war over immigration specifically, understanding that they will likely have to battle Democrats and potentially even some Republicans. Meadows and Jordan have made comments recently that have been interpreted as threats to Speaker Paul D. Ryan and his leadership team regarding their handling of the immigration debate.
As Congress searches for a solution to the coming end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that shelters roughly 700,000 young undocumented immigrants known as “Dreamers” from deportation, the Freedom Caucus has been pushing House GOP leaders to bring a conservative measure by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte to the floor.
“Pass a conservative bill in the House and then make the Senate come to us and the president if they really want to deal with it,” Meadows said. “I think that’s what we need to do.”
The Freedom Caucus chairman stood by his comments from last week that the immigration debate “is a defining moment” for House Republican leaders.
“It’s not just the speaker,” he said, pointing to the entire GOP leadership team. “At this particular point, what we’ve got to do is show real leadership. And if we cave the American people will remember it.”
“I’m tired of the talk,” Meadows added. “It’s time that we actually get things done.”
Trump Plays to Supporters, Bald Spot in CPAC Address
Jordan said a conservative immigration bill must adhere to Trump’s push to fund the border wall and end so-called chain migration (family-based visas) and the diversity visa lottery program. If those matters are addressed, then the American people would be open to addressing the DACA population, he said.
“It has to be done in that prioritizing fashion,” Jordan said, noting that if not it would be inconsistent with the message of the 2016 election during which Trump and conservative Republicans campaigned on beefing up border security and immigration enforcement.
Asked if the Freedom Caucus would push for a change in leadership if Republicans don’t do well in the 2018 midterm elections, Jordan said, “We’ve never been afraid of pushing, but we think the midterms are going to go well for our party.”
Meadows added: “Right now I’m not as worried about who the speaker of the House is as I am about the House leading. And the truth of the matter is you need to make sure that if your member of Congress doesn’t see the light, they need to feel the heat.”