In a call with reporters, Bozell and leaders of conservative groups including Heritage Action for America, FreedomWorks and the Family Research Council expressed sharp indignation at Trump, who on Thursday blasted the House Freedom Caucus for refusing to support House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s plan to replace some elements of the Affordable Care Act.
“The House Freedom Caucus, for the past several weeks, have been the grown-ups in the room,” said Michael Needham, chief executive of Heritage Action.
After promising for seven years — and through four national elections — to repeal the health-care law, Republicans and conservatives now find themselves crippled by seemingly unresolvable conflicts over how much of the law can be repealed and what to replace it with.
After the House’s failure to advance Ryan’s bill, factions within the Republican Party spent the week finger-pointing. Moderates, who disliked how the bill rolled back Medicaid expansion, and Trump heaped blame on House conservatives for refusing to support the bill. Conservatives contended that the legislation left too much of Obamacare in place.
Needham and other leaders sought to toss the blame back toward GOP leadership, the moderates and Trump. They predicted that Republicans will face losses in the 2018 election for failing to follow through on a repeal of Obamacare. They said Senate Republicans should be stepping up. And they argued that Trump is severely underestimating how important conservatives are to his future goals.
“The House Freedom Caucus is Donald Trump’s number one ally in draining the swamp,” said FreedomWorks President Adam Brandon.
Said Bozell, “They’ll be the ones front and center taking the arrows for him, so it’s very, very shortsighted to be attacking them.”
Heritage’s Needham sought to portray conservatives as the ones willing to compromise on the issue, saying they would have stomached policies they don’t prefer — such as insurance subsidies for low-income Americans and more grants to states — if the bill had only ditched the law’s big insurance regulations. Many Capitol Hill policymakers believe those elements could not have been included in the budget reconciliation bill being used to repeal the law.
“The House Freedom Caucus was willing to ignore all the flaws in this bill if it repealed Obamacare, ripped out the architecture that causes premiums to go up,” Needham said.
While some Republicans spoke hopefully this week about resurrecting efforts toward repealing Barack Obama’s health-care law, Trump soured things further by tweeting that he would oppose Freedom Caucus members in the next election if they didn’t fall in line.