Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has condemned progressive figures within the White House who have been agitating against the fiscally conservative Freedom Caucus.
In a Tuesday panel covered by the Texas Tribune, Cruz defended the Freedom Caucus, stating, “I will say those voices in the White House that are trying to get the White House to unload on conservatives, to unload on the Freedom Caucus, are doing the bidding of the left, of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, and profoundly damaging our prospects of success.”
When a reporter asked him to elaborate on who specifically he was referring to, Cruz said, “whoever is encouraging the White House to go after conservative members who are working hard to save this legislation and make sure it actually lowers health insurance premiums.”
“Any voices that are encouraging that are not looking after the president’s interests. They’re settling their own partisan agendas.”
Cruz then said he feared Trump could be vulnerable at the next presidential election if he failed to deliver on his campaign promises, even to a hard-left Democratic candidate.
“If we screw all this up, you better believe the American people could elect President Elizabeth Warren. If we deliver on all this, it doesn’t matter who they nominate — we win.”
Trump has previously accused the Freedom Caucus on Twitter of having “saved Planned Parenthood and Obamacare” because of their opposition to the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which was aimed at repealing and replacing Obamacare. He went on to say that he intended to “fight” the Freedom Caucus in the 2018 mid-term elections, singling out Rep. Justin Amash and Rep. Mark Sanford.
Although support for the AHCA initially appeared to be unanimous within the White House, some of those tasked with promoting it chose to take a more conciliatory approach to the Freedom Caucus, such as Vice President Mike Pence and his ally, Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, a former member of the Caucus himself.
Initially, White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, a figure widely regarded to represent the administration’s right flank, took a similar stance, but became infuriated after negotiations failed, personally threatening members of the Freedom Caucus and calling on Trump to draw up an “enemies list” of Republicans who had opposed the AHCA. Bannon reportedly also accused Gary Cohn, a liberal adviser within the White House, of making too many concessions to moderate Republicans, which ultimately prevented the Freedom Caucus from supporting it. The President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who is closely aligned with Cohn, is said to have opposed the bill from the left, believing it went too far in trying to appease conservatives.
Speaker Paul Ryan, the architect of the bill, has long had a fraught relationship with the Freedom Caucus, with conservative Rep. Louie Gohmert stating that Ryan and his ally, White House Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, rejected a deal between Trump and the Freedom Caucus. Gohmert then went on to suggest Priebus himself was behind Trump’s Twitter attacks on the Freedom Caucus.
Given the plethora of differing visions for the healthcare bill within the administration, it is hard to know who to blame for the White House’s attacks on the most fiscally responsible members of Congress.