President Donald Trump today appeared to declare war on the members of the Freedom Caucus, stating on Twitter that “the Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don’t get on the team, & fast. We must fight them, & Dems, in 2o18.”
While it is still unclear what the President meant by his remarks, the fact that he chose to group the Freedom Caucus in with the Democrats suggests that he intends to support primary challenges to Freedom Caucus members in the upcoming 2018 mid-term elections.
This is despite the fact that several Freedom Caucus members who led the charge against the American Health Care Act (ACHA), such as Raul Labrador and Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows, eagerly hit the campaign trail as prominent surrogates for Donald Trump’s campaign last year in vital swing states such as North Carolina and Florida. After Trump’s shock victory, Labrador was even interviewed by Trump as a prospective Interior Secretary, although was ultimately passed over. It remains to be seen whether these members will find themselves facing Trump-backed primary challengers.
Trump’s remarks contrast vividly with the far more conciliatory tone the President struck immediately after the failure of the ACHA, which was aimed at repealing and replacing Obamacare. At the time, Trump described the Freedom Caucus as “friends of mine” and appeared to be understanding, noting that “this was a hard vote.”
Trump’s growing antagonism towards the Freedom Caucus appears to be having an impact on its membership, with founding member Ted Poe resigning from the caucus, and another Texan member, Brian Babin, reportedly mulling a similar move.