Trump declares war on Freedom Caucus members,
President Donald Trump effectively declared war Thurs d ay on the House Freedom Caucus, the powerful group of conservative Republicans who helped block the health-care bill, vowing to “fight them” in the 2018 midterm elections.
In a morning tweet, Trump warned that the Freedom Caucus would “hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don’t get on the team, & fast.”
He grouped its members, all of them Republican, with Democrats in calling for their political defeat — an extraordinary incitement of intra- party combat from a sitting president.
There are about three dozen members of t he Freedom Caucus, and most of them were elected or re-elected comfortably in sol- idly Republican districts. With his tweet, Trump seemed to be encouraging primary challenges to each of them in next year’s elections.
House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters later Thursday that he sympathized with Trump.
“I understand the president’s frustration,” said Ryan, who was unable to push the health-care bill through his own chamber. “I share frus- tration. About 90 percent of our conference is for this bill to repeal and replace Obamacare and about 10 percent are not. And that’s not enough to pass a bill.”
Ryan said he had no immediate plans to bring the health-care bill back to the House floor.
“This is too big of an issue to not get right, and so I’m not going to put some kind of artificial deadline on saving the American health-care system from oncoming collapse,” said Ryan, who ini- tially scheduled the bill’s passage for the seventh anniversary of the Affordable Care Act’s signing.
Trump and his White House advisers have been frustrated by the intransi- gence of Freedom Caucus members, led by Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C. Trump lobbied them intensively to support the GOP plan to replace President Barack Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act, only to see the bill collapse March 24 after Meadows and some of his allies said they would not vote for it.
“This has been brewing for a while,” a White House offi- cial said of Trump’s decision.
Trump has been “paying close attention and keeping his options open,” said the official. “Our view is: There’s nothing as clarifying as the smell of Air Force One jet fuel. So if he needs to bring in the plane and do a rally, he’s going to think about doing that.”
The official added that Trump and White House aides are “sick and tired” of seeing Freedom Caucus members on television in recent days.
On Capitol Hill, Trump’s tweet was met with a range of reactions — with some members saying it could prove counterproductive and others praising him for using the power of his office in a way he hasn’t to this point.
Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., a former governor who has called for the health reform to work its way through Congress more slowly, said the president was taking exactly the wrong approach to his fellow Freedom Caucus members.
“The idea of threatening your way to legislative success may not be the wisest of strategies,” Sanford said. “It’s a case of shooting messengers who were, rightfully, pointing out problems in a bill that the American pub- lic has not shown a proclivity toward.”
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a Freedom Caucus member, said the break with Trump on the health-care legislation was based on real policy differences
“The president can say what he wants and that’s fine. But we’re focused on the legislation,” Jordan said.
President Donald Trump has called for the defeat of GOP House members who refused to vote for his healthcare bill overhaul, tweeting Thursday that they needed to “get on the team.”