Meadows makes MHS visit
A tweeted invite from Madison High School’s student council president helped convince Congressman Mark Meadows to the visit the school. Madison senior Jake Matthews said he sent a message on the popular social media site to the congressman and his campaign manager to help pave the way for the May 10 visit.
“Luckily, it was during a congressional recess,” Matthews said.
Arriving at the school shortly after 10 a.m. after a quick stop at the nearby Burger Parlor, Meadows posed for a picture with a welcome sign painted on a boulder at the school’s driveway entrance.
“This is the warmest welcome I’ve gotten in a high school in quite a long time,” Madison County’s representative in Congress said.
School personnel and Madison County Sheriff Buddy Harwood, who provided security throughout the congressman’s school visit, greeted Meadows before Matthews and junior vice president Hong Pham lead the Jackson County Republican around the campus.
On a stop inside Matt Schneider’s political science classroom, Meadows proudly told the story of how a Twitter message from another president, Donald Trump, made him, in the words of his son, “Tweet famous.”
“I’m only one of four legislators to be tweeted about by the president,” he told a classroom of students.
After landing in Charlotte March 30 following a short flight from Washington D.C., Meadows said he turned on his phone only for it to “vibrate and go crazy.” It was then he learned that President Trump had tweeted directly to Meadows and two other conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus, encouraging them to support a healthcare bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Though Meadows did not support that original piece of legislation, he did ultimately back House Republicans' second attempt at healthcare reform. Meadows played a critical role in the ultimate passage of the bill in the House of Representatives May 4. Alongside Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.), Meadows helped craft the so-called MacArthur-Meadows amendment, which allows states to opt out of provisions requiring insurers to cover a standard, minimum package of essential health benefits.
MacArthur faced a number of angry constituents at a town hall meeting that attracted national media attention the same day as Meadows' nearly two-hour long visit to MHS for what his office called “a district event.”
Asked by The News-Record & Sentinel why he chose to make the high school stop instead of holding a town hall, Meadows said, “We do our town halls in August. We’ve done that the last four years, and we’ll do it again this year. I think we already have two set up. Just because of the national politics, it shouldn’t change where our priorities are. So, consistently, when I come back, I try and make sure that public schools are a priority. Not only (do) the faculty and teachers and administration understand that it is a priority for me, it is also an opportunity to emphasize that next generation. That is not going to change just because of the national politics of it.
"Some, in fact a lot, of my colleagues say, ‘Why do you go to schools? There’s no votes there.’ I can tell you probably the most encouragement I get is going to local schools and seeing the next generation that will follow. It gives you great hope for your country.”
Meadows did face a few questions from students and faculty inside the school’s theater at end of his visit. After briefly explaining how a bill becomes a law with the help of student volunteers, the congressman took questions from an audience of about 50 students engaged in extracurricular activities including student council, Future Farmers of America and HOSA, an organization dedicated to future health professionals. A handful of teachers and administrators also attended.
Students Coleson Garrett and Ebanie Bailey quizzed the congressman on his support for healthcare reform, asking how new legislation would ensure affordable coverage for American citizens and immigrants.
“My biggest priority, in fact you might say my only priority, was to make sure health insurance premiums go down while at the same time we keep access and quality care up,”the congressman said. “That’s hard to do. Sometimes people see that as competing things. But in a rural area of Western North Carolina, and in talking to some of my healthcare providers, they’re really concerned about the working poor and some of the tax credits that have been available under the Affordable Care Act.
"So, what I did was not only make it where insurance rates will come down as part of the amendments we fought for, one of those was actually - it came from one of my colleagues - was a high-risk pool so that people with preexisting conditions would get that preexisting condition taken care of. But instead of private insurance taking care of that, the federal government with the help of the state government would do that. And ... that will drive down premiums for most Americans right away.”
Meadows also stated that he wanted to ensure access to healthcare tax credits for individuals and families with incomes up to 400 percent of poverty level. While not in the original legislation that passed narrowly in the House, that measure is something he is working on with Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, he said.
Addressing takeaways from his visit to Madison High School, Meadows stressed the culture he witnessed on campus. “The pride and the sense of community,” he said. “It’s not like it’s a high school that sits there as an institution all to its own. It’s part of the community and even as the student body president has been talking about, that interaction with the community at large is what public education is all about.”
Meadows also offered advice for the student body president. “Don’t run against me until I’m ready to retire,” he said with a laugh.