‘The most dangerous place in Washington is between Rep. Mark Meadows and a media camera…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) Considered to be among President Donald Trump’s closest allies in Congress, the House Freedom Caucus took fire Tuesday from a former congressman who touted himself as Trump supporter but was unseated by a more conservative challenger.
In an op–ed piece for The Charlotte Observer, defeated congressman Robert Pittenger blamed the Freedom Caucus—and specifically its chairman, fellow N.C. Rep. Mark Meadows—for harming the GOP by impeding the legislative efforts of the former Republican majority.
Pittenger said Meadows’s showboating undermined party unity, throwing party leaders like ex-Speaker Paul Ryan under the bus, and that his strict adherence to principle failed to take into account the political imperatives of deal-making.
“The most dangerous place in Washington is between Rep. Mark Meadows and a media camera,” Pittenger said. “Mark will sound off against the Speaker or anyone to stake out a claim that he is the champion of conservatives, while he understands the reality that passing legislation requires additional funding to get the necessary 60 votes in the Senate.”
The Observer said a spokesman for Meadows declined to comment.
Pittenger said the failure of the GOP Congress to achieve consensus may have cost it not only legislative victories, but also the House majority.
Addressing Trump, he said, “Mr. President, Mark Meadows and the Freedom Caucus are not your friends. They laud you on Fox News then undermine your legislation. Had we passed healthcare and immigration reform with border funding we would have likely kept the House.”
The attack came on the heels of a Pew Research scorecard that dubbed the previous Congress the fourth least productive in three decades, despite having majorities in both chambers and also holding the White House.
Pew said that “while the 115th Congress was more legislatively active than its recent predecessors, the proportion of substantive to ceremonial legislation was much the same.”
Such heavily qualified critiques of Republican-led Congresses were also commonplace during the Barack Obama administration, neglecting to consider that the blockage of bad legislation may also be a political objective and victory in its own right.
However, Pittinger said the Freedom Caucus’s hard-line stance against so-called Dreamers had proven self-defeating.
“In addition to a health care bill, we lost immigration reform and $25 billion of border wall funding a year ago because Meadows and his pals would not accept DACA,” he said.
Trump recently offered a three-year extension on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and also temporarily protected visa holders, which would have impacted roughly a million immigrants altogether, in return for $5.7 billion in wall funding. But Democrats rejected the deal, and the funding fight continues.
“Get over it, the kids are grown up and are living here,” Pittenger said. “They are not going anywhere and the Freedom Caucus chose to grandstand and lose the opportunity to stop the hemorrhage at the border.”
Pittenger also defended his support of an omnibus spending bill, largely panned by conservatives, saying it provided necessary defense funding.
“These critical security votes allowed Mark Harris to call me a liberal,” he said.
Last year, Pittenger lost his primary race in North Carolina’s now-notorious 9th District to Mark Harris, a Baptist preacher by trade who was seen as being to the right, and more aligned with Trump and the Freedom Caucus, on key issues.
Harris narrowly defeated Democrat Dan McCready by a margin of just over 900 votes, but allegations of voter fraud in parts of the district have waylaid the certification and kept Harris from being seated. Some discussions of a possible re-vote have centered on whether that should include the GOP primary, though Pittenger said he would not participate regardless.