President Donald Trump is taking aim at conservatives in his own party.
Days after the U.S. House Freedom Caucus members, including local Republican Reps. Jim Jordan and Warren Davidson, stopped Trump’s health care plan, the president issued a threat to the group.
“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!” Trump posted on Twitter Thursday morning.
By late afternoon, Trump called out Jordan by name, saying in another Tweet, if the congressman "would get on board we would have both great healthcare and massive tax cuts & reform."
All House seats and a third of U.S. senate seats will be on the ballot in 2018.
The caucus members negotiated with Trump to revise the GOP leadership’s proposed American Healthcare Act, which caucus members said was too much like the Affordable Care Act they wanted to repeal.
But those changes cost House Speaker Paul Ryan and Trump the support of Republican moderates and the whole bill was pulled without a vote on March 24 in a major defeat for what Trump had made a top legislative priority.
“The Freedom Caucus is trying to change Washington. This bill keeps Washington the same – plain and simple,” Jordan, R-Urbana, said during a Thursday appearance on Fox News. “This bill doesn’t fully repeal Obamacare, this bill doesn’t lower premiums and probably most importantly this bill doesn’t unite Republicans and the American people, as evidenced by the fact that only 17 percent of the country supports this legislation.”
Jordan was one of the founders and the first chairman of the group of conservatives, some aligned with the tea party, that dubbed themselves the House Freedom Caucus in 2015.
On Thursday he said the group is “trying to help the president” and do “what we told the voters we were gonna do.”
Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said Democrats “were proud to stand with the American Medical Association, AARP and the Ohio Hospital Association in opposing Trumpcare. The president failed. He couldn’t get a deal done. It’s time to move on.”
“What Donald Trump, Jim Jordan and Warren Davidson forget is that Ohioans don’t care about the ‘Republican agenda.’ They don’t care about D.C. food fights between Republicans over who is on what team. They want Washington to work for them — and they don’t want Washington to take away their health care.”
Davidson, R-Troy, the newest member of Ohio’s congressional delegation and a member of the Freedom Caucus said he is concerned about the tone of Trump’s tweet.
“I am concerned because I think the status quo in politics is to do power politics and blame,” Davidson said. “I don’t know that when it becomes personalized that people get helpful and problem solving. It tends to harden everyone’s position.”
Blaine Kelly, spokesman for the Ohio Republican Party and former spokesman for Trump’s Ohio campaign, said the president’s tweet “expressed his frustration with how the first opportunity to fix our broken health care system ended.”
“The Ohio Republican Party includes a diverse group of conservatives who sometimes disagree on process, but it is important for us to be united,” Kelly said. “This is especially true when it comes to major issues like repealing and replacing Obamacare, which is leaving Ohioans with higher costs and less access to care.”
The tussle with Trump and Ryan is not the first time the caucus has clashed with leaders.
Pressure from the caucus was instrumental in the 2015 resignation of then-House Speaker John Boehner, R-West Chester Twp. Conservatives members who later formed the caucus were instrumental in the 2011 near shutdown of the federal governement. Current Freedom Caucus Chairman, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-NC, led the charge in the 2013 two week shutdown of the federal government.
There are new concerns among House leaders that the caucus will use it’s power to force a government shutdown when funding funding authorization runs out on April 28.
Ryan said he understands and shares Trump’s frustration with the Freedom Caucus.
“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. We’re close and what we’re encouraging our 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 that we all said we would do. So he is just expressing his frustration, you all know that he does that in various forms, including Twitter, and I understand his frustration”
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