President Donald Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan both went after the group of far-right Republicans who keep torpedoing Republican legislative efforts.
In a Thursday morning tweet, Trump called on fellow GOP members to “fight” the Freedom Caucus, the small collection of Republican House members who drove Ryan’s predecessor from his job and succeeded in scuttling the president’s plan to repeal portions of Obamacare.
“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 tweeted.
Ryan was less bellicose in an interview with CBS News, but he also threatened to undercut the influence of the conservative rebels by telling them that the president would just go around them by teaming up with Democratic House members.
“If we don’t do this, then he’ll just go work with Democrats to try and change Obamacare,” Ryan said. “And that’s not, that’s hardly a conservative thing.”
Ryan added, “I don’t want that to happen,” noting that he believed Democrats want “government running health care.”
Numerous congressional Republicans have lashed out at the Freedom Caucus since the GOP’s American Health Care Act failed to garner enough support to be brought to the House floor for a vote.
"He is obviously frustrated as many of us are and there is only one place the finger-pointing should go and that is at the Freedom Caucus," said Rep. Chris Collins of New York, one of the president’s closest congressional allies told Bloomberg.
There have been some attempts to prod the Freedom Caucus to reconcile with a group of more moderate Republicans who call themselves the Tuesday Group but such efforts appear to not be making any headway.
The political insider website Axios reported on Thursday that the Tuesday Group and the Freedom Caucus were supposed to meet to begin the process of ironing out their differences but a meeting was never scheduled.
During the debate over the GOP's last health care bill, the Freedom Caucus’ ever increasing demands on the House's Republican leadership progressively drove away Tuesday Group members.
Ultimately the White House balked after the far-right legislators tried to make the GOP repeal some of Obamacare’s most popular provisions, including requirements that insurance companies keep adults 26 years of age and younger on their parents’ plans as well as a regulation prohibiting insurance firms from discriminating against customers with pre-existing medical conditions.
Democrats have said that they would be interested in making changes to the Affordable Care Act provided that Republicans stop trying to repeal it.
“We never said it was perfect,” Sen. Chuck Schemer said on ABC. “Stop undermining ACA. And we’ll work with them.”
Trump and Ryan’s threats to work with Democrats appear to just be idle ones so far. In an interview with Politico, Schumer said he had not spoken one-on-one with the president since he assumed office.
Still, there’s no question that the GOP’s leadership is already looking for ways to retaliate against members who won’t support its agenda. There are many high-level staffers in the Trump White House who are eager to attack far-right conservatives who they see as corrupt impediments to a more populist-oriented agenda. The small band of moderates in the administration has thus far had little to show for itself, however.