MOUNTAINEER: This is an agricultural area, Western North Carolina. A lot of people are worried about tariffs. You’re big on agriculture, so what would you tell people here about the tariffs?
MEADOWS: I think that currently the tariffs are more of a tactical tool than a long-term strategy to try to make sure that China does not overtake our economy and trade unfairly, taking more American jobs. I talked to the administration about the concern for any long-term tariffs. I think there potentially is a small amount of short-term pain that will hopefully gain some long-term benefits. I’m not a big fan of using tariffs as a tool, but I can tell you that we’re already starting to see China and a few other countries who have made it very difficult for some of our products to have entry into their country make some changes that I think will bode well over the long-term. I think we’re looking at a temporary concern instead of a long-term trade war.
MOUNTAINEER: The House Ways and Means Committee advanced seven health care bills. Democrats put in some amendments that were ultimately not included that had to do with pre-existing conditions. What’s your thought on coverage for pre-existing conditions, and what are people with pre-existing conditions to do if their insurance is taken away?
MEADOWS: I’ve been 100 percent committed, even during the Obamacare repeal effort, to say that pre-existing conditions have to be covered. It’s non-negotiable with me, and so any concern that people have that their pre-existing condition would not be covered is, one, not something that would ever get signed into law, but two, it’s not something I would support. I had two fundamental things I believe we need to do, whether it is repealing Obamacare or modifying Obamacare or provide additional options, two things have to happen. One is the pre-existing conditions have to be covered, and insurance premiums have to come down. It’s that simple. It is a complex issue to be sure, but those two things have to happen, and without that, I don’t believe that you have quality healthcare coverage. And yet, at the same time, we can’t allow a system where you get sick before you buy insurance because that’s not insurance. I’ve been consistent from day one on that, and I remain 100 percent committed to those two principles.
MOUNTAINEER: So would you be willing to say that you would vote against any bill that doesn’t provide coverage for pre-existing conditions?
MEADOWS: That’s correct.
MOUNTAINEER: Looking at Jim Jordan, there are a lot of people on both sides who are defending him pretty adamantly and people who are coming at him pretty hard. Your defense of Jim Jordan has not wavered. The Freedom Caucus voted to support him. What’s your current stance on the defense of Jim Jordan, and what’s the Freedom Caucus’ stance on supporting him?
MEADOWS: Jim Jordan has been someone who, in private, has always fought for the underdog. Jim Jordan is a man who, at times, even in the privacy of a room where there’s no reporters and no one looking, will always try to make sure he stands up for those that have been forgotten, whether that’s a second-grade teacher or a second-shift worker. He has been consistent there. There is a political component to this. If everybody looks at the political component of it, Jim Jordan, 28 years ago, was a 22-year-old assistant coach in probably the largest athletic program in the country, or at least one of the largest athletic programs in the country. There may be a lot more potential for personal responsibility there had he known about something. But there also would have been a lot more potential for responsibility had he been the administrator or the head coach or the athletic director. But he was one of 150 coaches that was not aware of the abuse. He’s had more people come out in defense of him saying he didn’t know and wouldn’t have known than the accusers that seem to have some different motives there. The man that I’ve come to know and admire is certainly someone who is always been willing to fight for the underdog. I don’t see that changing.
MOUNTAINEER: It seems like the accusations are piling up. You said there’s a lot both ways, but I’ve seen former wrestlers saying it’s impossible he wouldn’t know, and whether or not that’s true, politically, does it hurt the Freedom Caucus? Does it distract from the things you’re trying to do to have these kinds of allegations dogging you?
MEADOWS: I can tell you over the last week or so, he’s stayed focused on what is important to most Americans, and I don’t see that really detracting from that. He’s one member of Congress, and if he’s got things he has to deal with, then that’s fine, but I think what I sensed is, the last week or so, we have been working on immigration, we’ve been working on DOJ and FBI issues, we’ve been working on really a number of issues that—hopefully we’ll start to address healthcare costs. I don’t see it being a distraction from the primary goal of representing the people of this great country.
MOUNTAINEER: Are you still of the opinion that term limits for Congress should be set at four?
MEADOWS: I am. Obviously, there are a number of different term limit bills out there, but the one that I’ve been primarily interested in is one that has the House at four terms, two Senate terms. I think the founding fathers made this out to be a temporary job, not a permanent career. I’ve met with the President on this. I’ve met with some members who are doing this. I’ve encouraged our leadership to put up a vote on the House floor within the coming months on term limits. That’s a position that honestly has changed for me. I didn’t campaign on term limits, yet, having been here, I think it’s good that you stay close to the people that you have the privilege of representing, but also you hold that loosely and make sure that we have the ability to not have career politicians.
MOUNTAINEER: Would you say that if a bill doesn’t pass and 2020 rolls around and you’re up for reelection after your fourth term, would you run or would you practice what you preach and step down after four terms?
MEADOWS: Well, to comment on that in the press right now would make national headlines and also disadvantage the people that I have a privilege of representing. I can tell you that to term limit one person’s self while other people bank seniority and power is not what the people of Western North Carolina would necessarily want. But that being said, it is fundamentally my position that I’ve got to advocate strongly for term limits and push and use leverage to get a vote on that. When that happens, and it will happen, abiding by those term limits, I think, would be the appropriate thing to do. So when it gets down to it, I’m not going to presume that in November I’m going to be reelected. I’m presuming that I’m serving at the pleasure of the people of Western North Carolina, and my voting card is their voting card. They could send me home this November, and I wouldn’t even make it to the four terms. I think of each term as a privilege but also as a temporary job. I’m pushing for those four terms. I figured eight years was good enough for George Washington, it’s should be good enough for most members of the House.
MOUNTAINEER: You talked about whether the voters might send you home in 2018, but it seems unlikely. Have you put much thought into campaigning for 2018. Have you done much research on your opponent?
MEADOWS: I’ve done none, and quite frankly, I don’t even mention my opponents, I haven’t mentioned them, I don’t intend to do that now. I feel like if I keep the focus on the people that I have the privilege of serving and not on a potential opponent or on a campaign—if you do the right thing, the people give you the privilege of coming back, and if they don’t, then I will always remember the honor that I have had to represent the great people of Western North Carolina. But no, I’m not spending time on campaigning and, quite frankly, never mention my opponent.
MOUNTAINEER: What’s the status of the August recess?
MEADOWS: The August recess for the Senate, they’re going to stay in, and I’ve encouraged us to stay in as well. There are a number of House members who believe that we have so many bills sitting in the Senate that the House has done their job and the Senate needs to stay and do theirs. I’m encouraging us to look at staying in at least for part of August and actually trying to move things like term limits. I’d like to see us do some additional help on education, I’d like to see us work on actually making the tax cuts permanent for individuals and lowering some of the taxes on working families. But as we are today, I doubt very seriously that the House will actually work in Washington, D.C., so we’re going ahead and scheduling visits to different groups in places in North Carolina during that month with the caveat that if they call us, that we’ll have to cancel.
MOUNTAINEER: In that case, have you scheduled an August Town Hall yet?
MEADOWS: I have not scheduled an August Town hall. Typically, what I do on town halls is I do those in August, but I do those in the off-cycle in the non-election years. I’ve done them occasionally during election years, but I’ve found that most of those become more political than they do informative. And I do know that we’ve got two tele-town halls that are set up for that time, and I think we’re doing a Facebook Town Hall, which I’m technologically challenged, but my staff has assured me that the Facebook town hall may be able to reach a broader segment of our population than just a 200 or 300 seat auditorium.
MOUNTAINEER: But it also allows for a degree of filtering questions, doesn’t it?
MEADOWS: No, I don’t filter any of my questions at town halls, and I don’t filter questions on Facebook town halls. My understanding is that we’re going to try to take every single question. Now, that may get hard if you’ve got 1,000 questions versus 200, but as you know, in the past, we’ve committed to answer every single question whether we’ve done it during the town hall or after. We respond to 100,000 phone calls and emails a year, so that’s not going to be any different for a town hall. Filters only work if that’s the agenda, and I’ve always been willing to answer the tough questions along with those that might be more advantageous for me.
MOUNTAINEER: Peter Strzok and Lisa Page are all over the news, as are your comments on them. Yesterday was really contentious with some members of Congress questioning Peter Strzok. Did you think that some of their questions verged on being personal attacks?
MEADOWS: I’ve always said stick to the debate where you’re actually debating the merits of an argument and keeping away from a personal attack. That’s the way that I normally have conducted myself in hundreds of hearings. Very rarely will I ever make a personal assault on anybody, unless—there have been a few times where I’ve called out some individuals for not telling the truth. But I’ve been able to be very aggressive and assertive in my questioning without making them personal. Any time you do that, it doesn’t normally serve the debate well and you don’t get to the facts. There’s two things you can look at as the public hearing of Peter Strzok was not Congress’ finest day, but it’s also as though the bias in those text messages is hard to ignore, as well.
MOUNTAINEER: To be specific, you would say that Rep. Gohmert’s comments, you thought—
MEADOWS: I’m not going to get into specifics, because just like I don’t make personal attacks, I don’t personally go after someone. Even where I had an issue with another member of the opposing party on something they said, I didn’t mention their particular name as I was concerned about it. Personally, going after Democrats or Republicans is not something that I’ve done and don’t intend to start today.
MOUNTAINEER: You’re on the Foreign Affairs Committee. President Trump has been abroad for a few days now. He’s talked about NATO and he’s been almost like a sine wave. He went from having negative remarks about NATO to almost reaffirming our position within NATO and talking about how vital it is. What’s your opinion on NATO, how vital it is, and also the President’s rhetoric regarding NATO?
MEADOWS: I think you can boil it down into two things. NATO is very necessary, especially as it relates to a threat from Russia. We’ve seen in recent history what they did in Crimea. If they were to do that in Estonia or Belarus or Georgia or some other country that used to be part of the old Soviet Union, we would have a real problem with it, and yet we have to look no further than a few years ago to see what they did with part of Ukraine in the Crimea region. It is critical. The President’s rhetoric really boils down to two points. He sees it as a critical component, but he also sees that it is an agreement with many, many nations who have agreed to pay 2 percent of their GDP on their own defense, and since the United States uses between 2.5 and 3 percent of its GDP on national defense initiatives there, it is time that Germany and France and Italy and others pay their fair share in terms of the agreement that is made, which is 2 percent of their gross domestic product. There’s only five countries that do that, and it’s time that we quit talking about it. President Bush talked about it, President Obama talked about it, and now President Trump talks about it, and I think what he’s saying is this is not just talk, it’s time that they start spearheading more, and it is having an effect. But I think that’s why you see a very negative tone on day one and a positive tone at the end of the visit, because the importance is there, and at the same time we are not the world’s bank and we can’t continue to subsidize every single military and national security intervention and financially put that on the American tax payer’s back.