Politics & Government

Former NC GOP congressman blasts Republican Rep. Mark Meadows and his Freedom Caucus

Rep. Mark Meadows of NC encourages support of the border wall

Republican Congressman Mark Meadows encourages support of President Trump's border wall during a House session in Washington, DC Thursday night, Dec. 20, 2018.
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Republican Congressman Mark Meadows encourages support of President Trump's border wall during a House session in Washington, DC Thursday night, Dec. 20, 2018.

In an unusually personal rebuke, former U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger has lashed out at Rep. Mark Meadows, a fellow North Carolina Republican who chairs the House Freedom Caucus.

Pittenger ripped his former colleague in an op-ed for The Charlotte Observer. He said Meadows and the conservative Freedom Caucus had cost their party not only legislative victories — including billions for President Donald Trump’s border wall — but possibly the House majority.

“Mr. President, Mark Meadows and the Freedom Caucus are not your friends,” Pittenger wrote. “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.”

A spokesman for Meadows declined to comment. The western N.C. congressman was recently elected to another term as chairman of the Freedom Caucus, a group of about three dozen conservative lawmakers.

Pittenger, of Charlotte, served three terms before losing the 2018 primary to Republican Mark Harris. Harris said during the campaign that he would join the Freedom Caucus if elected. Harris criticized Pittenger for voting for spending bills such as the $1.3 trillion omnibus bill passed last March and signed by Trump.

In his op-ed Pittenger defended his votes for such measures that raised defense spending. He said he and GOP Rep. Patrick McHenry often were the only members who voted for some defense spending bills.

“Other NC Republican caucus Members wanted it passed but did not want to take the political heat for voting for it,” he wrote. “When election time came, I got hammered by Mark Harris, a Mark Meadows and Freedom Caucus devotee, as a ‘liberal’ for voting for big government programs, notwithstanding that was the only way to fund our national security.”

The op-ed reflects the ongoing divisions between Republicans. In 2015, Meadows led the effort that unseated Republican Speaker John Boehner of Ohio. Meadows has since become one of Trump’s leading congressional allies.

Pittenger was unusually personal in his attacks on Meadows.

“The most dangerous place in Washington,” he wrote, “is between Congressman Mark Meadows and a media camera.”

Jim Morrill, who grew up near Chicago, covers state and local politics. He’s worked at the Observer since 1981 and taught courses on North Carolina politics at UNC Charlotte and Davidson College.

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