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By Robert Donachie
Members of the House Freedom Caucus (HFC) are facing constituents for the first time since they opposed President Donald Trump’s first legislative effort to repeal and replace Obamacare.
The majority of Republican voters in 2016 cast their ballots for candidates promising to upend former President Barack Obama’s landmark health care legislation. Following the humiliating defeat of the American Health Care Act (AHCA), conservative members are heading home to their districts to participate in town hall meetings.
The caucus can prove an impediment to policy making, as it did with the AHCA. The HFC took the brunt of the backlash after Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the legislation. Trump went so far as to threaten to throw his support behind HFC challengers in 2018
“The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don’t get on the team, & fast,” Trump tweeted. “We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!”
The HFC is comprised of some of the most ideological conservatives Republicans in the House with a few more moderate members. Unlike other caucuses and committees, the HFC does not publicly disclose its membership, making it difficult to lock down its full roster. There are at least 36 verified members of the HFC, with Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina serving as the group’s chair. The caucus has a sizable influence when members band together on big votes. (RELATED: Meet The Group Of Conservatives Holding Up Obamacare Reform)
While the caucus caught flack from the president and the media for not supporting the first repeal effort, the group’s members are receiving nothing but praise at home for what their constituents are viewing as a principled move, Reuters reports.
Rep. Ted Yoho of Florida was met with adulation Thursday at a town hall in his district for example. Voters were quick to remind Yoho that they are still holding him accountable for repealing Obamacare.
“I want it done,” 74-year-old Bob White said after speaking with Yoho. “Wield that big stick.”
Another voter, 84-year-old Melvin Shebester, is happy that Yoho stood up to Trump and Congressional leadership. “It takes a lot of guts to stand up against your party,” Shebester said. The man’s son added that Yoho’s leadership is vital because “we can’t go up there and tell Trump he’s wrong.”
Other members of the HFC are also getting praise. Michigan Rep. Justin Amash entered a high school in Battle Creek Tuesday evening to 100 people cheering. “If I had to choose between Justin and Trump, I’d go with Justin for sure,” a voter told reporters.
Trump promised that if health care reform failed to pass in March, Obamacare would remain the law of the land and his administration would move towards tax reform. The president is now pivoting, saying that tax and regulatory reform have to take a backseat to repealing Obamacare, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Congress is on its first two-week recess and will not reconvene until April 25. Whatever Trump chooses to do will likely have to wait until lawmakers return to Washington.