Western North Carolina Republican Congressman Mark Meadows met face to face with supporters and detractors during a town hall debate last night near Hendersonville that was largely dominated by health care. BPR’s Jeremy Loeb was there.
With lawmakers home from Washington for their August recess, it’s a chance to meet with constituents. Western North Carolina Republican Congressman Mark Meadows addressed several hundred of them at Blue Ridge Community College last night outside of Hendersonville in Flat Rock.. The main topic was no surprise.
“We’re going to be talking a little bit about health care as the debate gets into healthcare. There are some who believe we should have Medicaid for all. Then there are some who believe we need to reform the Obamacare system. There are some that believe we need to repeal and replace it.”
Healthcare dominated the town hall. It took up nearly the entire first half of the two hour event. Meadows chairs the conservative Freedom Caucus, which played a huge role in crafting the House version to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. That measure squeaked through his chamber but died in the Senate. But Meadows is vowing not to give up.
“For me, I find that a free-market approach actually has the best way of bringing down costs.”
Many attendees were there to voice their displeasure with the various GOP plans, which the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office found could cause millions to lose insurance. Meadows sparred with detractors in several back-and-forths, like this moment when Meadows was going through one of the options he’s looking at.
“Where we look at actually increasing some of the funds that are there and block-granting those to the states. So that that way North Carolina…. (Boos) Now I find that interesting because many of you who want Medicare for all want the government to tell you what you’re going to charge and not charge and yet you don’t want the state to do that.”
If any GOP supporters were angry about the failure of repeal and replace, it wasn’t so much on display last night. There wasn’t a lot of anger directed at Meadows, anyway, aside from those who seemed to support Obamacare. Aside from health care, Meadows fielded questions about taxes, guns, and the debt ceiling. One of the biggest applauses of the night came on a question putting him in an awkward spot with regards to President Trump, of whom Meadows is a supporter.
“Do you support either a federal law or a state law to require presidential candidates to release their tax returns?”
“And I can tell you’re not going to like the answer. I’m not in favor of that.”
Meadows said he thinks presidential candidates SHOULD release their returns, but he doesn’t favor a federal law to require it.
“The last time I checked in the Constitution, it wasn’t there.”
The crowd seemed split pretty evenly between supporters and critics. There were some interruptions, but always on topic. And Meadows largely tolerated the criticism, and never seemed to get upset or frustrated.
“There’s an element of truth in every argument and look for the element of truth. Sometimes that element of truth is small and sometimes it’s great. But look for the element of truth in every argument. We’ve got to get back to a place where people believe that their input matters and also that what they say actually carries weight.”
After the event, Ray Dyer of Hendersonville, a Meadows supporter, said he was pleased with what he heard from the Congressman, calling him a gentleman.
“Obviously some people were here that were totally against his views. But he was very respectful towards them and I appreciate that. Civility has been lost in our society today.”
Rocky Case of Candler was upset he didn’t get in despite saying he showed up 30 minutes before the event. He said the biggest concern he had was why Meadows supported the House GOP health care bill.
“That cuts 800 billion from Medicaid in order to give a tax break to millionaires. It just doesn’t make sense.”
That was a sentiment shared by the dozen or so demonstrators outside the event.