U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows was bullish about the nation’s prospects in his remarks during the Council of Independent Business Owners “power lunch” at Highland Brewing Co. on Aug. 27. In a response to Xpress questions after the event, however, he said that Western North Carolina will have to recover from recent flooding events without Federal Emergency Management Agency support.
Gov. Roy Cooper had requested a federal major disaster declaration on July 30, which would have qualified WNC for funds to repair damage from storms, landslides and mudslides during the month of May. Meadows said he joined Sens. Thom Tillis and Richard Burr earlier in August to support Cooper’s request and had reached out to FEMA directly on several occasions.
However, Meadows noted that FEMA Administrator Brock Long’s letter on Aug. 20 denying the disaster declaration was likely the final word on the matter. “I think that decision has been made,” he said. “Obviously, that’s a decision that they didn’t feel met the threshold [for supplemental federal assistance].”
During the lunch itself, Meadows focused on economics and immigration, as well as the intersection between the two. One question from the audience, for example, concerned local construction companies that can’t find sufficient workers to fill their positions and want immigration reform to ease their recruitment of foreign labor.
“There are a lot of very good ideas on immigration that not only give us a secure border but actually work for a guest worker program,” Meadows responded. “That breaks down over building of a wall, to be frank, and amnesty on the other side. Everybody kind of retreats to those two areas.”
Based on his experience in the district, Meadows recognized that Hispanic and Latino workers are often filling “very hard jobs that other people won’t do” and becoming important parts of local communities. Nevertheless, he estimated that Washington wouldn’t make any significant move on immigration reform until after the midterm elections in November.
“Quite frankly, [Senate members] have not shown the intestinal fortitude” to vote on politically contentious immigration measures, Meadows added. “The Senate takes more naps than they do votes.”
Meadows also opined on development of the domestic workforce. He said that the administration of President Donald Trump hopes to promote vocational training for skills such as high-tech manufacturing. Those skills are in high demand regionally: In Buncombe County, the manufacturing sector added 1,100 jobs between April 2017 and last April.
But perhaps more important than training, suggested Meadows, is the work ethic of prospective employees. “In my district, we’ve got thousands of jobs that could be filled tomorrow if someone was willing to do two things: pass a drug test and show up to work. Now that’s a pretty low bar,” he said.
In reference to the aforementioned drug tests, however, Meadows offered no suggestions on issues such as combating the region’s opioid crisis or reforming national marijuana legislation.