President Trump vowed to take on the Freedom Caucus in the 2018 midterm elections if its members do not conform to his vision of the GOP.
On Thursday morning, Trump tweeted that the congressional caucus of conservative members of the House of Representatives is on track to harm “the entire Republican agenda.”
The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don't get on the team, & fast. We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 30, 2017
The Freedom Caucus, a hard-line conservative group of about 30 members, had fallen from Trump’s good graces last week after the Republican-controlled Congress failed to garner the 216 votes needed to pass the American Health Care Act (AHCA). Many conservatives argued that the bill did not go far enough in repealing Obamacare, while more moderate Republicans balked after seeing the Congressional Budget Office assessment that the AHCA would cause millions of Americans to lose insurance.
Before the vote was abruptly scrapped last Friday, Trump had already criticized members for failing to pledge their support. And his frustration with the group showed no sign of waning over the weekend. He kept hammering away at the caucus, suggesting that Democrats were grateful it stymied the AHCA.
Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 26, 2017
The AHCA would have essentially repealed and replaced the Affordable Care Act (ACA), following through on the president’s campaign promise. The failure to cut a deal with Democrats (and members of his own party) was a major setback for Trump, who presented himself as a brilliant dealmaker leading up to the election.
The ACA is the much-debated signature health care bill of Trump’s predecessor, former President Barack Obama. Liberals generally praise the ACA for expanding health care coverage to about 20 million more Americans, whereas conservatives tend to argue that the law is wreaking havoc on the health care system and is untenable.
Trump has since said he would allow Obamacare to fail on its own, bringing Democrats back to the negotiating table. It’s unclear whether the threat of working with Democrats is a negotiating tactic to sideline the Freedom Caucus, but House Speaker Paul Ryan is urging Trump to stick with his own party on health care legislation.
When asked about Trump’s tweet during his weekly press briefing, Ryan said he understands and shares the president’s frustration. He said about 90 percent of their conference supports the bill and only about 10 percent do not.
“What I am encouraging members to do is keep talking with each other until we can get the consensus to pass this bill,” Ryan said. “But it’s very understandable that the president is frustrated that we haven’t gotten to where we need to go because this is something we all said we would do. And so he was expressing his frustration. You all know he does that in various forms, including Twitter.”
Reps. Justin Amash of Michigan and Thomas Massie of Kentucky, both members of the Freedom Caucus, responded to the president’s insults on Twitter.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) March 30, 2017
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) March 30, 2017
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