When the bloc of conservative Republicans known as the House Freedom Caucus helped stop the GOP plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare last month, President Donald Trump declared war.
On Saturday, Trump’s social media director took it a step further by directly targeting one of the caucus’ most outspoken members, Rep. Justin Amash.
If you’re someone who cares about smaller government and protecting individual liberty, you will find no better allies in the House than the members of the House Freedom Caucus.
They opposed the Trump-endorsed American Health Care Act pushed by Paul Ryan not because they wanted to fight with or embarrass the president—the House Freedom Caucus’ top senate ally Rand Paul was still trying to work with Trump on healthcare as late as Sunday—but because the plan the GOP came up with was far too similar to Obamacare. It really was just “Obamacare-lite.”
Sorry GOP, but that’s simply not good enough—which encapsulates the entire purpose of a group like the House Freedom Caucus.
When it comes to the most basic things a conservative or libertarian might expect from Republicans controlling Congress and the White House, it is the House Freedom Caucus that can be counted on most to hold the line. When most other Republicans are ready to break every campaign promise or tell any lie necessary in the interest of political expediency, it will be this relatively small group who can force the party to stick to principle.
As Rep. Amash tweeted last week:
In this regard, Amash in particular is arguably the best member of the caucus. Along with Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Mark Sanford of South Carolina, Amash is certainly one of the most libertarian members of the House.
Trump is not a libertarian, or even a conservative in a traditional or more conventional sense. But he did promise to repeal Obamacare. He did promise to tamp down on overregulation. He did say he would cut spending, audit the Federal Reserve and even end America’s costly habit of nation building abroad as our infrastructure suffers at home.
I hope President Trump does all these things. It’s not a stretch to say that most of the Freedom Caucus does too, and particularly Rep. Amash. To make these things happen, they will need each other.
But you know who doesn’t prioritize this kind of reform? Most politicians.
Most Republicans and Democrats come to Washington to enjoy and protect their power. Period.
Now, I’m not saying members of the Freedom Caucus are as principled as I would like them to be, but collectively this group represents something that ostensibly is the reason Republicans won the election in the first place.
It’s the reason Donald Trump won the election. Americans are eager for change in Washington and have been for some time.
Unfortunately, there are countless government and corporate interests who work overtime to ensure that nothing ever changes. They benefit from keeping things exactly as they are. The Trump-Ryan repeal and replace plan was a creature of the health insurance lobby.
That’s not “draining the swamp.”
So, is this something Trump still wants to do? Or is he acclimating to Washington consensus like so many others?
Amash’s responses to the president and his aide frame well the real question about Trump’s longterm goal:
To be the swamp-draining reform president Trump promised he would be, he needs the House Freedom Caucus, and he will also need their allies in the senate, leaders like Sen. Paul and Mike Lee of Utah. If he makes enemies of them, there will be no reform not only because he won’t have the votes, but also because most conventional politicians simply don’t want it. Most politicians fear and fight change.
Targeting the House Freedom Caucus means all that would be left is the same old go-along-to-get-along politicians that Trump promised to vanquish. That makes absolutely no sense, and would also irretrievably undermine the primary reason millions of Americans voted for Trump in the first place.
Disclosure: I co-authored the 2011 book The Tea Party Goes to Washington with Sen. Rand Paul.