Longtime Houston, Texas Republican Rep. Ted Poe has resigned from the House Freedom Caucus. His reason is specifically tied to HFC’s position against Swampcare. Poe said in a statement published by The Hill:
In order to deliver on the conservative agenda we have promised the American people for eight years, we must come together to find solutions to move this country forward. Saying no is easy, leading is hard, but that is what we were elected to do. Leaving this caucus will allow me to be a more effective Member of Congress and advocate for the people of Texas. It is time to lead.
I can’t disagree with Poe’s decision. President Trump went on the attack, shifting all blame for Republicans failure to agree on Swampcare to the HFC.
Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 26, 2017
If Poe wanted to vote “yes” on the AHCA, being connected with Rep. Mark Meadows and the others within the HFC put him in a pickle. Although the group never voted to formally oppose the bill as a bloc, it was well known how its members felt.
Poe represents some of the more well-heeled areas in north Houston, including Kingswood, an oilman’s planned community built with Exxon’s money and influence back in the 1970’s. He also represents some parts of heavily-Democratic Houston inside the loops. AHCA was probably a good compromise for that particular mix.
Losing one Congressman doesn’t spell doom for the HFC, but it could be the first of many. Add to that the specific calling-out of HFC, Club for Growth and Heritage by Trump and some House members may have good reason to distance themselves. Essentially, Trump put conservatives in the shoot-the-hostage conundrum, demanding their suicide or he’ll shoot the hostages. Then he blamed them for the hostages’ death.
It’s fairly well agreed by most of the writers at The Resurgent that Swampcare was a poor bill and a poorer attempt at “repeal and replace.” The real argument is whether anything better could have been crafted this quickly. There’s considerable disagreement (not just here, but in general) over whether Republicans should have voted for Swampcare as the best start to an Obamacare repeal, or stand firm for a more conservative approach.
Fox News’ Brit Hume ignited such an argument on Twitter, with this tweet. “Smart of [Poe] to quit the [Freedom Caucus], the group responsible for keeping Obamacare in full effect while hurting party & POTUS.”
— Brit Hume (@brithume) March 26, 2017
Read the whole thread and you’ll see all the arguments…here are the main ones on both sides.
a. It wasn’t just the HFC that killed Swampcare, there was significant opposition across the party, and in the Senate (which would have killed it).
b. Swampcare would not have cured the worst parts of Obamacare (unaffordable premiums), so it’s arguable which would “hurt the American people” more.
c. This bill was the best Republicans could have gotten and the HFC squandered it.
I think the problem here is the same one President Trump had with his immigration executive order: premature action. He went for the quick win, and didn’t have the team, plan and talent to make it happen.
Trump thinks he has much more of a mandate to do these things than he actually does. He eschews the normal politicking that goes on for a bill of such sweeping import. He might have been able to sell AHCA if he had gone on the road, sold it to the people in states where health care is in fact a disaster, and laid out a plan for regulatory, legislative and corporate support.
But that requires specific leadership skills that Trump has not shown us to this point. He might learn them in time. But now the issue is one of blame, and Trump would never, ever accept any blame. He told the HFC that it was this bill or nothing, and I believe he’ll stick to that for a while. And the president will make them pay for their intransigence.
Those who want to stand against a president who isn’t afraid to tweet pejoratives against specific congressmen may find themselves pretty lonely on the Hill. That’s not their fault; the blame lies squarely in the Oval Office.
We are off to a very poor start for a Trump presidency. Democrats smell blood in the water. The next big hurdle is Judge Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation vote. If Democrats think they can peel off enough Republicans to stop them from going nuclear and killing the filibuster, they may be able to effectively block him.
Names to watch on Gorsuch, if Ds block:
McCain, Collins, Murkowski, Portman, Flake. 3 face no Election until '22.
— Brandon Finnigan (@B_M_Finnigan) March 26, 2017
Trump’s splitting Republicans on Swampcare may have lasting effects, giving Democrats much more power and confidence when they should be almost invisible as Republicans were in 2010. Too many losses in a row for Trump will spell a very long and painful four years, if the president doesn’t get his house in order.