A member of the staunchly conservative House Freedom Caucus, Meadows has fought his battles with House Republican leaders, but he remains unbowed. After Meadows voted against the rule setting up debate on the fast-track Trade Promotion Authority bill, Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz took away his gavel as chairman of the Government Operations Subcommittee.
A few days later, Chaffetz reversed that decision, explaining that he’d spoken with Meadows several times after his removal and “we both better understand each other.”
Like other House Freedom Caucus members, Meadows voted against the trade bill when the House finally passed it in June 2015 on a 218-208 vote. As the 114th Congress (2015-16) began in 2015, Meadows was one of the 12 Republicans who voted for Daniel Webster of Florida to be speaker rather than John A. Boehner and it seems likely he’ll continue diverging from the GOP leadership with some frequency. He did vote for Boehner as speaker when he first arrived in the House in 2013.
As subcommittee chairman, Meadows has taken an interest in federal employee morale and held a hearing on surveys which the Office of Personnel Management administered to more than 800,000 federal workers.
“Seven in 10 workers said that their chance at a promotion is not based on merit, but on favoritism, something that is extremely troubling I know to me and the ranking member (Gerald E. Connolly of Virginia),” Meadows said.
He also serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and has sponsored a bill which would create a temporary tax break for companies that bring their foreign earnings to their U.S.-based operations. Those earnings would be taxed at 5.25 percent instead of the 35 percent corporate tax rate and the revenue raised would go solely to the Highway Trust Fund, to the Defense Department, and towards reducing the national debt.
Meadows was the lead author of a letter to party leadership in 2013 requesting that any resolution include a “defunding” of the programs established by the 2010 health care law. Conservative support coalesced behind that idea, and when Democrats refused to go along, many federal operations shut down starting Oct. 1, 2013.
At the very least, Meadows wants to see a delay in the “individual mandate,” which requires adults to have insurance or pay a fine, until concerns about implementation can be addressed. He described opposition to the law as nonpartisan. “If you were to ask me six months ago if I would have been on the side of the AFL-CIO in opposing Obamacare, I would say ‘no,’” he remarked in September 2013.
Before arriving in Washington in 2013, Meadows was a real estate developer in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Prior to his House service, he was active only as a fundraiser and party official. “It was something that we got involved with in North Carolina mainly because it was so easy to get involved,” he said. Meadows answered the call for a precinct meeting and was the only person who showed up: “When you are the only one, you become the chairman of the precinct.” He eventually served a stint as the chairman of the Macon County Republican Party.
Meadows has emphasized his Christian values — campaign materials describe him as a “Christian conservative businessman” — and he sits on the Foreign Affairs subcommittee on human rights. (That panel and the China commission are chaired by another devout Christian Republican, New Jersey’s Christopher H. Smith.) Meadows has called China’s human rights record “abysmal,” despite that country’s economic gains. “We need to make sure that we hold them accountable,” he said at a 2013 hearing. Meadows wants more clarity regarding the United Nations role in international disputes. The vacuum created by U.N. inaction has led to “mission creep” for the United States, he said. When news broke that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons against rebel groups, most of the international focus was on a possible U.S. military response. “I felt like it was the U.N.’s credibility that is on the line,” Meadows said. If it is truly an international norm that was violated with chemical weapons … it’s up to that body to make sure that that’s addressed.”
Outside of his committees, Meadows has looked at the U.S. tax code and land development, issues he’s intimate with from professional experience. He has proposed a “business approach to conservation” by allowing landowners to sell or transfer the tax deductions they get for conservation easement donations — thereby allowing landowners with smaller tax burdens to still benefit from an easement. “I have done my fair share of set-asides that are regulatory in nature,” he said. “But I can tell you, I would set aside a whole lot more property if there were a financial incentive to it as well.”
Meadows was born in France, where his father was stationed with the Army and his mother was working as a nurse. The family settled in Tampa, Fla. Meadows told the Smoky Mountain News that he was a “fat nerd” in his early years, although he worked hard to lose weight in high school — and he caught the attention of his future wife. They completed their college studies at the University of South Florida.
The couple visited western North Carolina on their honeymoon (in a car borrowed from Meadows’ sister), and they were so taken with the region that they eventually bought a lot and built a second home there. They moved there in the mid-1980s. Trying to figure out what the town of Highlands needed, they opened a small sandwich shop. Meadows said he went into the business blind, but after some initial bumps it became a success. He later sold the shop to get into real estate.
After flirting for years with the idea of becoming a candidate, Meadows said, he was finally driven to run by the state of the economy. A new congressional district map for 2012 also opened the door to a possible House career. Democratic Rep. Heath Shuler, a leader of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition, decided to retire at the end of the 112th Congress (2011-12) — Republicans controlled redistricting in the state, and the redrawn 11th District was going to be a very difficult hold for Democrats.
Meadows prevailed in an eight-person primary, then easily won a runoff. In the general election, he defeated Shuler’s former chief of staff, Hayden Rogers, by almost 15 points.
In 2014, Meadows won a second term with 63 percent of the vote, and it is difficult to imagine a Democrat defeating him. As for a more conservative Republican primary challenger, that too seems hard to imagine.
- Residence: Cashiers
- Born: July 28, 1959; Maginot Barracks (Army), Verdun, France
- Religion: Christian
- Family: Wife, Debbie Meadows; two children
- Education: U. of South Florida, A.A. 1980
- Military Service :None
- Career: Real estate developer; restaurateur; energy company customer relations director
- First Elected: 2012 (2nd term)
- Latest Election: 2014 General (62.9%)
- Political Highlights: Macon County Republican Party chairman, 2001-02
- Foreign Affairs (Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights & International Organizations; Middle East & North Africa)
- Oversight & Government Reform (Government Operations - chairman; Health Care, Benefits & Administrative Rules)
- Transportation & Infrastructure (Aviation; Economic Development, Public Buildings & Emergency Management; Highways & Transit)
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