On Thursday morning, President Donald Trump took aim at the House Freedom Caucus on Twitter, saying “We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!”
Although both moderates and liberals also opposed the bill, Trump blames the Freedom Caucus for the Republicans’ failure to pass the American Health Care Act, a bill that many conservatives and libertarians did not approve of. Over 25 members of the Freedom Caucus rose against the bill, effectively making it impossible to pass, and forcing the GOP leadership to pull the AHCA before it could be voted on.
Now, Trump has vowed to oppose the Freedom Caucus during the midterm elections next year, making the declaration on Twitter.
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
But this wasn’t something that members of the House Freedom Caucus were going to shy away from. Almost immediately, Trump received responses from Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), and Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID).
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) March 30, 2017
@realDonaldTrump Freedom Caucus stood with u when others ran. Remember who your real friends are. We're trying to help u succeed.
— Raúl R. Labrador (@Raul_Labrador) March 30, 2017
The Freedom Caucus members even received a backup tweet by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), who while not a member of the Freedom Caucus, often finds himself on the same side.
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) March 30, 2017
According to the Washington Post, Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) told reporters that “the president can say what he wants and that’s fine. But we’re focused on the legislation.”
Rep. Mark Sanford also expressed his disagreement with Trump on punishing legislators who won’t fall into lockstep.
“The idea of threatening your way to legislative success may not be the wisest of strategies,” Sanford said. “His message yesterday was that he wanted to work with Democrats. I guess the message today is ‘we need to fight against Freedom Caucus members and Democrats.’ That’s a conflicted message. It’s a case of shooting messengers who were, rightfully, pointing out problems in a bill that the American public has not shown a proclivity toward.”
According to the Post and Courier, Sanford had recently been told through an intermediary, White House Budget Chief Mark Mulvaney, that Trump wants to primary him, and had hoped he would vote “no” on the AHCA so it could happen.
“‘The president asked me to look you square in the eyes and to say that he hoped that you voted ‘no’ on this bill so he could run [a primary challenger] against you in 2018,'” Mulvaney told Sanford.
Despite the tensions boiling over between the White House and the Freedom Caucus, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY.) believes that peace can be achieved between the two Republican factions, saying “lines of communication are still open” between the two, and that a compromise can be reached.