WASHINGTON – Mark Meadows dropped to a knee in then-Speaker John Boehner's office, the still-new congressman apologizing for joining those trying to oust the Republican leader.
Two years later, Meadows did it anyway, leading the House Freedom Caucus' push for Boehner's departure in 2015.
Now, as President Donald Trump's chief of staff, Meadows is an unorthodox pick for the White House role, trying to negotiate a coronavirus relief package on Capitol Hill. He is seen more as a deal breaker than deal maker, a newcomer who arrived in Congress with the tea party, led a government shutdown and made a name for himself slashing budgets rather than building them.
On a private call, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York told senators this week it was Meadows, not the other key White House negotiator, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who threw roadblocks up as talks collapsed.
It's clear Meadows "is in charge,” was the message from Democratic leadership, according to a person who was not authorized to discuss publicly the conversation and spoke on condition of anonymity.
With talks stalemated, Trump has resorted to bypassing Congress, issuing the executive actions that Meadows warned would come if the White House failed to reach a deal. The president's orders for jobless aid and other actions are only expected provide modest relief to some 20 million Americans at risk of eviction and even more who are out of work, halving unemployment assistance to $300 a week.
On a conference call with Republican senators, Meadows and Mnuchin left the impression there are no new talks scheduled with Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said a Republican who was not authorized to discuss publicly the conversation and spoke on condition of anonymity. They briefed senators again Wednesday.
Republicans seem satisfied Trump’s orders will provide enough relief despite the mounting coronavirus infections and death toll that has topped 161,000 in the U.S. Talking to supporters in North Carolina, Trump predicted that Meadows, who used to represent the western part of the state in Congress, will be remembered in history.