By Jake Frankel
Freshman Rep. Mark Meadows met with a group of local business leaders April 30 and shared some scalding thoughts on what he's encountered during his first few months in Congress.
"You think D.C. is dysfunctional, and it's worse than that. It's just unbelievably bad," said the Jackson County Republican. "You've heard of a 'gun-free zone'? D.C. is a logic-free zone."
Over lunch at Magnolias Raw Bar & Grille, the new congressman told the Council of Independent Business Owners that, despite the frustrations, he finds inspiration in the patriotism of his constituents in the 11th District, which covers most of Western North Carolina and includes parts of Buncombe County. He says that the phone calls he gets from area residents really do have the power to help sway his opinions and votes on important issues.
The biggest concern he's heard from residents since taking office has been over Second Amendment rights, he reported. However, he said he doesn't expect any big developments on that front now that a bill in the Senate strengthening background checks failed to win support. A gun-ownership-rights advocate, Meadows introduced legislation in February to revitalize the Cops in Schools grant program with the goal of improving student safety. He said he's hopeful it could be acted on later this year.
Another issue he says is a priority: Cutting regulations that "hamper the banking industry" so that business owners can better access investment capital. "We need to make our regulatory and tax environment better than any other nation," he said. Although he declined to offer details on how to do that, he did decry environmental regulations, asserting: "We spend more money studying the environmental impacts of building bridges than on actually building bridges."
In terms of international issues, he said there should be a big release of information soon on last year's attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that left four U.S. citizens killed, including a U.S. Ambassador. Noting that he was recently privy to a classified briefing on the subject, he told those present to expect "new information showing why Americans were killed and what we can do about it."
Closer to home, he also announced that the North Carolina Republican Party will hold its annual convention in Cherokee next year -- the first time it will be held in WNC.
Although he serves on the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Meadows insisted that his focus is squarely on his district, and praised the site of the convention as a sign state government is starting to pay more attention to this part of the state.
"We want to put an emphasis on Western North Carolina," he said.