GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Michigan Congressman Peter Meijer (R-Grand Rapids) had anything but a typical first year in Congress.
“I don't think anyone goes to Congress in the modern era thinking it's going to be functional, but I don't think we anticipated the degree of dysfunction and just how deep some of those problems are,” he told FOX 17 Monday.
We sat down with the freshman representative one year after he was sworn-in to office.
The first half of Meijer’s first term was largely shaped within a few days. Just three days after he was sworn in, January 6, 2021, there was an attack on the U.S. Capitol. He was inside the building as violent rioters laid siege.
A week later, he was one of 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach former President Donald Trump. A decision he defended in the face of threats from the public and criticism from members of his own party. Meijer will also face-off in a contested GOP primary against a Trump-endorsed candidate.
“I know that there are plenty who are still angry about that decision. I think it's important to know I take none of this lightly. The amount of time spent looking and understanding what precedent my vote will involve, you know what has happened prior,” Meijer said.
“Frankly, I still look back and I'm deeply disappointed at just how long it took the then president to react to what was going on, just how all of that was handled, not only some of the recklessness leading up to Jan. 6 but also the lack of response in those critical hours,”he added.
Much of his first year in D.C was shaped by those moments, 2021 was a year full of political strife and hyper-partisanship. Meijer joined the bipartisan Problem Solvers caucus within his first month in office, a group that aims to find “common ground” on key issues.
“I certainly hope we see that change,” Meijer said. “A lot, frankly, will hinge on what the Senate chooses to do and how some of those swing senators will react. But I hope that moving forward, we obviously see a bit more willingness to put partisan politics aside and work on behalf of the American people.”
Though Meijer stuck to party lines when it came to voting against key pieces of legislation pushed by the Biden administration, including the American Rescue Plan and the infrastructure package. He reached across the aisle while introducing other bills, like a push to reclaim congressional war powers, which was fueled by a controversial, unauthorized trip to Afghanistan last summer.
The congressman flew to the Middle East alongside fellow veteran and Democratic colleague Rep. Seth Moulton to get a ground level view of America’s chaotic withdrawal. The move drew criticism from the state department and others, but Mejier stands by it.
“What we saw on the ground was, A. not what we were being told by the by the Biden administration, and B. just really emphasized how complex the current dynamics are within the country, Meijer added.
“I've been incredibly frustrated that the Biden administration just wants to turn their backs on Afghanistan. You know, turn out the lights, lock the door, throw away the key, forget about that, not want any more headlines, they want to focus purely on domestic priorities,” Meijer said. “I mean, the reason why we're in Aghanistan is because we turned our backs, we looked the other way, and allowed a terrorist safe haven to develop and I think we're really in a dangerous spot where that could be the case within a year's time.”
The ongoing issues in Afghanistan are among the many things the freshman wants to focus in on in the new year; he heads back to D.C. next week.
“I think our one of our biggest goals is working on a lot of the things that were introduced and seeing those through to fruition, looking for other opportunities to engage in bipartisan pieces of legislation,” he explained.
Last week, Meijer had his first bill signed into law. The “DHS Blue Campaign Enhancement Act,” was signed under the National Defense Authorization Act for 2022 and aims to strengthen local police’s ability to crack down on human trafficking.