Reported By Jordan Fabian – 03/30/17 09:24 AM EDT
President Trump on Thursday launched an attack against the conservative House Freedom Caucus, vowing to “fight” them in the 2018 midterm elections. Trump warned that the group could “hurt the entire Republican agenda” if its members clash with party leaders, lumping them together with Democrats on a list of his top political targets.
The president is escalating an internal party feud that could have grave consequences for the rest of his legislative agenda. He appeared to hint at the possibility of encouraging primary challenges against Freedom Caucus members, the vast majority of whom represent solid Republican districts.Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), a vocal Freedom Caucus member, fired back at the president in a tweet of his own.
“It didn’t take long for the swamp to drain @realDonaldTrump. No shame, Mr. President. Almost everyone succumbs to the D.C. Establishment.
Another ally of the group, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), echoed those comments, telling Trump on Twitter that “it’s a swamp not a hot tub. We both came here to drain it. #SwampCare polls 17%. Sad!”
Trump has taken repeated shots at the group of hard-liners for their role in torpedoing the GOP plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare. The president lobbied them repeatedly to get on board with the proposal, but the effort was unsuccessful. Caucus members said the measure did not go far enough in rolling back the Affordable Care Act, even after changes were made to satisfy their concerns.
The president on Monday tweeted that the “Freedom Caucus was able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory” on healthcare.
“Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!” he tweeted on Sunday.
The president has openly mused about working with Democrats on an alternative healthcare plan. But it will be difficult for Trump to persuade Democrats to get on board with significant changes to former President Obama’s signature domestic achievement.
With his poll numbers sitting at historic lows, Democrats also have little incentive to work with him on tax reform on a major infrastructure package, especially after he pledged to fight them in next year’s elections. The infighting within the House Republican conference, meanwhile, could pose challenges for those items as well as a must-pass spending bill to keep the government open beyond the April 29 funding deadline.
The schism also has also sparked internal divisions within the Freedom Caucus. Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) quit the group over the healthcare bill, and Brian Babin (R-Texas) has said publicly he’s considering doing the same.
“It’s something that will be a decision in the future, OK?” Babin told The Hill.
–This report was updated at 10:28 a.m.