President Donald Trump has hit out at the House Freedom Caucus, a hard-line conservative faction of the Republican Party, blaming it for the failure of his health care bill and implying that it needs to be removed from Congress.
Trump's attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare, hinged on whether he could persuade enough Freedom Caucus members to vote in favor of his bill. The proposal was scrapped on March 24 when it became clear the president had failed to bring enough of the ultra-conservative Republicans on board.
According to Politico, Trump's budget director, Mick Mulvaney, had given the Freedom Caucus an ultimatum: Back the proposal or be held responsible for its failure. The threat appears to have been genuine, with Trump slamming the group on Twitter.
"The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don't get on the team, [and] fast," the president tweeted on March 30. "We must fight them, [and] Dems, in 2018!"
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On March 26, reports Uproxx, Trump had tweeted: "Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood [and Obamacare]!"
And on March 24, while the fate of the American Health Care Act still hung in the balance, Trump had written of the "irony" of the Freedom Caucus' opposition.
"The irony is that the Freedom Caucus, which is very pro-life and against Planned Parenthood, allows P.P. to continue if they stop this plan!" he tweeted.
Certain members of the Freedom Caucus have been equally critical of their colleagues. Republican Rep. Ted Poe of Texas, who left the group over the health care dispute, indicated that the bill's failure is nothing to be proud of.
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"They should decide: Is this bill better than Obamacare? And the answer to that question is yes," Poe said, according to Politico. "They weren’t going to ever get the purist bill that they wanted, because the rest of the conference isn’t going to agree with them ... I would hope after all this that the Freedom Caucus not look at this as a victory, but that they have a responsibility to keep working to come up with something they can support."
Republican Rep. Brian Babin of Texas is also reportedly thinking about leaving the group.
As the walls close in around the Freedom Caucus, the chairman, Republican Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, insisted he is still committed to finding a solution to the health care issue, even if that means the splintering of his organization.
"The American people couldn’t care less about the Freedom Caucus," he said. "They care about their insurance bill. So in the end, if we lower premiums for the American people ... what happens with this caucus is inconsequential."