GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer (R–Grand Rapids) is spending his August recess in his home district, visiting with local organizations and hearing from constituents. The freshman congressman is also gearing up for the second half of his first term in office and a reelection campaign.
Seven months ago, Meijer believed his political career may have ended when he joined nine other House Republicans in voting to impeach former President Donald Trump, but now according to Meijer, that decision is seemingly less on the minds of voters in his district.
Meijer's campaign has raised more than $800,000 this cycle, significantly more than his two pro-Trump primary challengers Tom Norton and Audra Johnson, who haven't cracked six figures to this point.
“I think obviously, there are plenty of folks who still disagree [with the impeachment vote], but you know, it's something we honestly don't hear about too much,” Meijer told FOX 17. “We are out there communicating about both district-related issues and what pieces of legislation are coming up. When I talk to folks, they're worried about the national debt and ever-growing deficits; they're worried about continuing challenges around the coronavirus pandemic; they're worried about inflation.”
Inflation is also on Meijer’s mind, who, when back in D.C., will likely have to vote on a more than $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan, which he still has concerns about.
“I’m concerned that people think that this infrastructure bill does everything. It's essentially a renewal of the highway bill, surface transportation package with a few other components on the side. I don't mean to say that disparagingly, but this is not going to be transformational; this is additive,” Meijer said.
“Ultimately there are some components I have been concerned about: vehicle mile travel components that could infringe on civil liberties, we're just getting into individual tracking of vehicles, some of the specific pay-for items, the revenue generating items that are meant to offset some of the expenditures. And then finally, just how much this will actually add to the deficit,” he added.
Though Democrats are lauding the plan, including Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who called it a "game changer" for Michigan. The state would get more than $7 billion for road and bridge repairs and nearly $`10 billion to clean up toxic chemicals in water systems.
The bill passed the Senate with broad bipartisan support, but it has an unclear future in the House, as several prominent Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, are pushing to tie the infrastructure plan with a larger $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, which Meijer calls a "progressive wishlist."
"When we're experiencing rapid inflation, when we're experiencing just unfathomable levels of not just government debt but deficit spending that's projected to grow that by an obscene amount over the next decade, I think there's a very rising degree of concern that we are not managing the ship of state well, that we are risking running off the rails from a fiscal standpoint and from a macroeconomic standpoint," says Meijer.
Meijer plans on going through all 2,700 pages of the infrastructure plan before ultimately making a decision on how to vote. He'll also keep in mind the thoughts of his constituents; though with redistricting on the horizon, who he represents will likely change by the time his next election comes.
“At the end of the day, our third district as it is, it encompasses most of Kent County, all of Barry, all of Ionia, all of Calhoun County and Battle Creek and then a little bit of Montcalm; that's the district I was elected to represent and will continue to represent no matter what,” Meijer added.
Our conversation with Representative Meijer came hours after the Pentagon announced more than 3,000 American troops were heading back to Afghanistan to help with the evacuation of an embassy. Meijer was supportive of President Biden’s plan to withdraw all troops from the country by the end of August and said he was frustrated with Thursday’s announcement.
“We need to accept that this is not a situation we can fully control; we could stay there for decades longer, and it probably wouldn't change," Meijer said.
“I'm frustrated to see us sending troops back there. I understand the need, and obviously we cannot let Kabul fall; we need to make sure that we are laying the groundwork for a future political transition. But the more rapid the Taliban's advances, the longer off that eventually will be.”
Meijer wants to continue pushing to repeal outdated Authorizations of Use of Military Force. His first bill to pass the Democratic-led House, was a bill to repeal a 1957 AUMF.
“I think we've seen over the past year and a half during the COVID pandemic, you know how much legislatures have just kind of washed their hands of having to focus on things; there needs to be much more of a productive balance between the executive and the legislative when it comes to emergency powers so that we ultimately have a functioning democracy, but also protect civil liberties and just our more broadly construed constitutional rights.”