“I'm coming after you": Trump threatens conservative House Republicans to support Trumpcare bill

"Many of you will lose you seats in 2018 if you don't get this done," Trump told Republican lawmakers Tuesday

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published March 21, 2017 4:40PM (EDT)

Donald Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price arrive on Capitol Hill, March 21, 2017.   (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
Donald Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price arrive on Capitol Hill, March 21, 2017. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

President Donald Trump paid a rare personal visit to House Republicans on Tuesday morning to pitch his newly revised health care plan in front of a deeply skeptical caucus of conservatives. Apparently frustrated by the continued resistance within his own to party to one of his signature campaign promises, Trump took to directing threats at specific conservatives on Capitol Hill — a move that appears to have already backfired.

"He said, 'Y'all ran on repealing Obamacare. Looks like you'd be ripe for a primary if you don't keep your promise,'" Texas Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold told reporters after Trump’s hourlong visit to the basement of the Capitol ended. North Carolina Republican Rep. Richard Hudson further explained to reporters, "The president's message was that the American people are counting on us to repeal Obamacare and this is our one chance to do it. And if we fail, there will be consequences for our party and for us as individuals.”

According to The Washington Post, Trump told the divided Republican conference meeting, “I’m gonna come after you, but I know I won’t have to, because I know you’ll vote yes.”

On Monday the House GOP leadership unveiled a series of tweaks to the Republican law, formally known as the American Health Care Act, in an effort to appease the entire caucus before a crucial Thursday vote.

“They want a tremendous health care plan. That's what we have, and there are going to be adjustments to it. But I think we'll get the votes,” Trump told reporters as he left the meeting.

“Honestly, a loss is not acceptable, folks,” he added, according to the Post.

As part of his strong-armed negotiation strategy, the president even singled out the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, the group of hard-line conservatives most staunchly opposing Trumpcare.

"I'm gonna come after you," Trump threatened the chairman of the Freedom Caucus, Mark Meadows, R-NC, according to Meadows. 

The threat, however, apparently rung hollow.

"I'm still a no," Meadows said afterward, "because the bill that we're currently considering does not lower premiums for the vast majority of Americans, and that's what we need to do."

The co-founder of the Freedom Caucus, Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, echoed his colleague’s continued opposition to the bill. “The president always does a good job in these settings,” Jordan conceded. “But the legislation is still bad, and doesn’t do what we told voters we would do.”

According to a count by NBC News, 17 House Republicans remain opposed or are leaning against the House bill, even after Monday’s supposed fixes.

The changes to the bill unveiled late Monday night, according to Talking Points Memo, include speeding up the repeal of Obamacare's taxes by one year, to 2017, while increasing tax credits for people ages 50 to 64 — who represent a major voting bloc for Republicans. The newly revised bill has not been "scored" by the Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan entity that provides cost and coverage estimates to Congress, and this is not likely to be done before Thursday’s scheduled vote.

The GOP leadership can afford only 21 defections from its House caucus in order for it to still be able to pass this bill, the first major piece of legislation backed by the Trump administration.

On MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Monday, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., referred to President Trump in this way: "He's the closer." And at a campaign-style rally in Louisville, Kentucky, Monday night, Trump unveiled a new slogan for his administration: “"Promises Made. Promises Kept."

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday after the president's visit to Capitol Hill, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., agreed with Trump that the House majority will be in jeopardy next year "if we don't keep our promise" and pass the Obamacare repeal and replace measure.

Meanwhile, the conservative Club For Growth announced on Tuesday a half million dollar ad buy targeting moderate Republicans in vulnerable districts to not support the new version of the bill.

According to a polling average from Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.com, nearly 50 percent of Americans oppose the GOP House bill and just 30 percent of voters support it. As Silver pointed out, “By comparison, Obamacare had a 40 percent favorable rating and a 49 percent unfavorable rating when it finally passed Congress in March 2010. Later that year, Democrats lost 63 seats in Congress.”

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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