Meadows and Trump still getting voter support despite conflict over U.S. health care fail

Jonathan Ernst—Reuters
House Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) speaks to reporters after meeting with his caucus members on March 23about their votes on a potential repeal of Obamacare on Capitol Hill.

MORGANTON, N.C. — President Donald Trump’s first major legislative initiative, repealing and replacing Obamacare, fell short in a first pass at the U.S. House but his supporters across America were lashing out — at conservatives, at Democrats, and at leaders of his Republican Party in Congress.Only Trump himself appears to be spared their criticism.Many voters who elected him appear largely willing to give him a pass on the collapse of his campaign promise to overhaul the U.S. health care system, stressing his short time in office.”He can’t wave a magic wand,” said Ramona Bourdo, 70, a retired nurse, eating breakfast at a McDonald’s in suburban Little Rock, Ark. “I’ve not lost confidence in him.”Support for Trump appeared unflagging, as does local support for Congressman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) who led conservative opposition to the bill as chairman of the House Freedom Caucus. Meadows, of N.C.’s western 11th District, helped seal the failure of last week’s Republican effort to repeal and replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act — known as Obamacare — the signature domestic policy achievement of Democratic former President Barack Obama.Meadows and his caucus are among the House’s most conservative members, and were intensely courted last week by Trump and his surrogates trying to whip their votes in favor of the Republican’s American Healthcare Reform Act. They were unsuccessful as outside conservative groups such as the Club for Growth and Heritage Action for America urged lawmakers to reject it. Objections among Republican moderates also left leaders short of the votes needed for passage, with Democrats unified in opposition.During the battle, Trump warned lawmakers that voters would remember if they turned away the first chance to address Obamacare.However, in Meadow’s home District 11 in the western part of the state, voters appear largely in support of his stance on the bill. Bob Penland, at-large member of the District 11 GOP Executive Committee, said he got 37 phone calls over the weekend from folks in the area about Meadows and the Freedom Caucus. All but four were in support of Meadows’ opposition to the health care reform measure.”They are proud of him for standing firm, they trust him to do what’s right for District 11,” said Penland in an interview with North State Journal.Morganton, population 17,000, sits within Meadows’ heavily rural congressional district. The barista at the Grind Cafe in Morganton, who cannot afford his own insurance and remains on his parents’ plan, felt Trump’s own lack of legislative experience contributed to the reform bill’s failure to get the needed votes.”I think it’s partially his fault,” said Joel Martin, a 21-year-old Republican and Trump supporter. “I don’t think he has enough personal knowledge to do what he needs to do to get a health care bill through Congress.”Meadows reached out to his district following the bill’s collapse assuring them that the fight to repeal and replace Obamacare is not over.”I promised the people of North Carolina’s 11th District that I would fight for a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act and a replacement with a market-driven approach that brings down costs and provides more choices for the American people,” Meadows said in a statement. “I remain wholeheartedly committed to following through on this promise. I know President Trump is committed to repealing Obamacare and replacing it with a system that works for American families, and I look forward to working with him to do just that.”Even though Meadows and Trump found themselves on opposite sides in this battle, District 11 is firmly behind both if the 2016 election is an indicator.”[Meadows] is very popular in the district,” said Penland. “District 11 delivered the highest percentage of votes for Donald Trump in the state and Mark Meadows got 20 percent more than Trump here.”More conflict could be on the horizon. Fresh off the defeat on health care legislation, the White House warned Monday that conservative lawmakers should get behind Trump’s agenda or he may bypass them on future legislative fights, including tax reform.White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said they intend to build a broad bipartisan coalition on tax reform. He said the tax priorities include a border tax and a middle-class tax cut that might help to attract votes from moderate Democrats.”We’re willing to talk to anyone. We always have been and I think more so now than ever,” said Priebus on Sunday talk shows.Meadows, a fiscal conservative, said this week that his group could support a tax plan that is not revenue neutral, despite his earlier concerns that tax reform depended on the repeal of Obamacare in order to offset the likely cost of tax cuts.”So, tax reform and lowering taxes will create and generate more income,” Meadows said. “So we’re looking at those, where the fine balance is. But does it have to be fully offset? My personal response is no.”The Trump administration said it intends to lead crafting a tax-cut plan, working in consultation with Congress, with an August target date.