Meadows: House majority loss wouldn't 'change a whole lot'

Meadows: House majority loss wouldn't 'change a whole lot'

President TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Ex-Trump staffer out at CNN amid “false and defamatory accusations” Democrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her MORE phoned Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsRepublicans threaten to subpoena Nellie Ohr Conservatives left frustrated as Congress passes big spending bills Graham to renew call for second special counsel MORE (R-N.C.) Thursday in the midst of the GOP’s hunt for a spending deal that could attract enough votes in the House to shift the risk of a shutdown to Democrats in the Senate.

The president didn’t realize he reached Meadows, a favorite ally in the House, during a meeting of the conservative Freedom Caucus, a group of 30 or so renegade lawmakers who were at that moment resisting the idea of backing a fourth stopgap spending measure.

During several conversations that afternoon, Trump made his views clear, Meadows told The Hill’s Power Politics podcast during an interview Friday in the congressman’s office.

“He doesn’t want a shutdown,” Meadows said of the president. 

“We may differ over tactics,” he added, but they agreed on that.

“He was encouraging me not to use the power of 30 votes, voting down a resolution here in the House,” explained Meadows, the chairman of the Freedom Caucus, noting twice during the interview with The Hill that the conversation with Trump was “not contentious.”

The North Carolina congressman said one of the lessons he learned following the country’s last shutdown in 2013 was that his party’s standing was “unbelievably horrible” in polls following that 16-day drama, but the brinksmanship did not cost the GOP seats in 2014. 

At the time, Meadows and Texas Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzViral video shows O’Rourke air-drumming to the Who’s ‘Baba O’Riley’ after Cruz debate Five takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate NY Times, McCabe give Trump perfect cover to fire Rosenstein, Sessions MORE (R) were closely associated with the shutdown strategy amid a push to repeal ObamaCare.

But during Friday's wide-ranging conversation, Meadows seesawed between optimism about the midterm outlook and an unblinking acceptance that Republicans might lose nearly 30 House seats in November, which would hand the majority to Democrats.

“I can make the case for losing 27 or 28 seats,” he said. “What difference does a majority make?” he said with a shrug.

Because the narrowly divided Senate has blocked much of the GOP’s agenda in the last year, losing control of the House would be painful but would not feel dramatically different, Meadows argued.

That perspective, he noted, is like “nails on a chalkboard” among his GOP brethren.

“If at this point nine or 10 Democrats in the Senate control what gets to the president’s desk, what difference does a majority in the House make?” he said. “I don’t know that in legislative terms it would change a whole lot.”

Meadows said Democratic control would alter House “leverage points,” including that progressives could tie the administration in knots with oversight investigations and potentially file impeachment charges against the president.

“Democrats will get a lot more bold about the impeachment efforts,” he said, “but legislatively we seem to have ceded our power to the other chamber. And that’s what I fundamentally disagree with, and think we’ve got to stop.”

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Meadows did not mention Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHow does the 25th Amendment work? Sinema, Fitzpatrick call for long-term extension of Violence Against Women Act GOP super PAC drops .5 million on Nevada ad campaign MORE (R-Wis.), with whom he has clashed in the past. He denied having ambitions to run for Speaker himself if his party maintains control after November, or to try to lead the House GOP in the minority, should power flip.

He said he favors “a different type of leadership style” at the top, an approach that’s more “transparent” and “inclusive.” Specifically, Meadows complained he and his colleagues should be awarded committee assignments and chairmanships based on merit and ability, not the “campaign cash” they raise and contribute, or based on friendships.

“There is no Speaker’s race in my future, ever,” Meadows said flatly. “It’s not a job that I have ever aspired to … if I can help others do that, then that’s great.”

The congressman predicted the wobbly political terrain for Republicans, as measured in recent polls, could improve before November if his party could deliver on the policy agenda conservatives promised voters in 2016.

“A lot of people showed up [in 2016] on Nov. 8 to vote for a new president and a new Congress that said `we’re going to do things differently.’ ”

Meadows said, “If they see that we’re actually doing what we said, then November will be fine.”

At the moment, he believes GOP losses in the House could be contained to 15 to 18 seats, to still hold the reins, but he described himself as “a realist.”

Recent Democratic victories in New Jersey, Virginia, Alabama and a Wisconsin state Senate special election are telling, but inconclusive, Meadows insisted.

And there’s still time for Republicans to talk up a strong economy, tax cuts and policy changes they think voters support, he argued.

“I think it could potentially mean a wave, but I think at this point, there’s a frustration, certainly, by people who were shocked and surprised by Nov. 8, who are turning out and organizing in a different way,” Meadows conceded.

“I have seen that. To not acknowledge that would be to ignore the obvious.”


Power Politics, hosted by The Hill’s Alexis Simendinger, airs Saturday mornings. 

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