Trump Engages on ACA: Threatens Conservatives with Primaries

President Donald Trump escalated pressure on conservative lawmakers Friday by pledging to consider supporting primary challenges against GOP lawmakers who don’t get on board with a current plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

After days of seeming lukewarm support for the healthcare plan spearheaded by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Trump’s reported threat is sure to send shock waves through the Republican caucuses in the House and Senate.

“Sen. Paul … is not impressed with what has currently been offered. Truth be told, I’m not either.”

The remark was reportedly made to Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the House majority whip tasked with lining up votes for Steve Scalise leadership, reported first in the Washington Examiner. Scalise and other House Republicans were reportedly told of the president’s newfound willingness to play hardball at a Friday meeting in the White House.

Opposition to the current form of the Obamacare replacement bill in the House is coming from at least 20 to 25 members of the GOP caucus — particularly the House Freedom Caucus.

Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) have forcefully spoken out against the bill. Paul has led the charge, calling it “Obamacare Lite.”

Paul and Lee are safe for now, having been re-elected in 2016. Their Senate seats are not up again until 2022.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is however up for reelection in 2018. Despite initial criticism of the bill Cruz has left the door to negotiation with Trump more widely open than his conservative colleagues. Cruz met with the president in the White House to reportedly discuss the proposal on Wednesday.

House members also have to face the voters in 2018, and Trump’s bully pulpit capabilities are not to be underestimated in the very Republican districts where most of the House Freedom Caucus are from. House Republicans in safe districts are keenly aware their only vulnerability is a hot primary challenge.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, admitted as much to the Examiner.

“The president has a very powerful bully pulpit and a very powerful tweet and so I would never want to take on the president in either of those realms,” Meadows said.

The escalated pressure on conservative from the White House did bring some immediate blowback.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin told reporters on Friday that “Sen. Paul … is not impressed with what has currently been offered. Truth be told, I’m not either. So I’m with [Paul].”

Bevin added he supports fixing the bill. Bevin’s remark could indicate added pressure could lead to added intragience among conservative not afraid to oppose a plan dubbed “Obamacare 2.0.”

Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to appear with Bevin at a Saturday rally in Louisville in support of major White House agenda items.

  1. American Health Care Act
  2. Matt Bevin
  3. Mike Pence
  4. obamacare lite
  5. president Donald Trump
  6. Rand Paul
  7. Ryancare
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