President Trump, the Freedom Caucus is on your team
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In the wake of last month's decision by Speaker Ryan to pull from the floor his flawed American Health Care Act, President Trump has focused his fire on the members of the House Freedom Caucus — the roughly three dozen conservatives who appear to be the only House Republicans determined to actually deliver on the president’s promise to fully repeal ObamaCare. That’s wrong.

In a Thursday morning tweet, President Trump said, “The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don’t get on the team, & fast. We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!”

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That’s a rather odd declaration from a president who came to office by successfully recasting the election contest as not one of Republicans versus Democrats, or even conservatives versus liberals, but instead as a contest of the Washington elites versus the rest of the country.

 

That is, Trump didn’t win by leading the “Republican” team, and certainly not by leading the “Ryan” team (Ryan famously abandoned Trump a month before the election, while the rest of us doubled down to help then-candidate Trump) — Trump won by leading America’s team. His coalition of victory wasn’t confined to Republicans and Independents; he won significant numbers of votes from Democrats, particularly in the key battleground states, by promising to “drain the swamp.”

Trump’s strategic brilliance in recasting the campaign terrain is self-evident. He understood better than did his opponent that in the political communication wars, it’s not what you’re saying, it’s what you’re arguing about that determines the outcome. Control the subject of the debate, and its content becomes virtually irrelevant. Make the election about which candidate is more likely to change Washington’s culture that sees itself as above the rest of the country, and prepare to reap the victory.

So Trump ran against Washington. And why not? Five of the six richest counties in the country by median household income, and 10 of the top 20, are located in the Virginia and Maryland suburbs near the nation’s capital. A region whose principal industry is made up of paper-pushing bureaucrats is filthy rich compared to the rest of the country.

This “Ruling Class” lives by its own rules, irrespective of what the law actually says. On ObamaCare, for instance, the law as written (Section 1312(d)(3)(D)) requires that Members of Congress and their staffs leave their generous FEHBP health insurance coverage and instead purchase their insurance through the exchanges. Members were shamed into voting for a provision that said if it was good enough for the rest of the country, it was good enough for them.

But they didn’t really want to do that, so years later, they convinced President Obama to give them a special pass, courtesy of a directive to the Office of Personnel Management. Now they receive a subsidy worth $5,000 a year to an individual, and almost $12,000 a year to a family — a subsidy no one else who works for a large employer (and, to be clear, Congress is a “large” employer by ObamaCare’s rules) is allowed.

Instead of threatening the Freedom Caucus — whose members took the stand they did because they wanted to help President Trump keep his campaign promise to repeal ObamaCare — the president and Speaker Ryan should think about the two goals of the “repeal and replace” promise on which they campaigned: First, repeal ObamaCare entirely. That means, especially, repealing the insurance regulations driving up the cost of healthcare even as they degrade the quality of care. As long as those insurance regulations remain in place, ObamaCare remains intact.

The millions of grassroots activists who worked over four election cycles to give Republicans the majorities they needed in the House and Senate and the White House to repeal ObamaCare know exactly what real repeal would look like — and this bill wasn’t it. Trust me, no volunteer was motivated to knock on doors, make phone calls, or write letters, by the promise of “Medicaid reform” or “Medical Device Tax repeal.” “Repeal ObamaCare!” was the singular motivation, and anyone in Washington who thinks otherwise is fooling himself.

Second, offer a way to cover people with pre-existing conditions. This aspect of ObamaCare is popular among Americans. But there are far better ways to provide coverage for patients with pre-existing conditions than by simply requiring insurance companies to write a policy on anyone who wants insurance, pre-existing conditions or not. This type of a solution could bring more moderate Republicans like Rodney FrelinghuysenRodney Procter FrelinghuysenBottom line Republican lobbying firms riding high despite uncertainty of 2020 race Ex-Rep. Frelinghuysen joins law and lobby firm MORE and Barbara Comstock — both of whom announced their opposition to the bill last month — back to the table.

And then, like President Trump, they can all be on “America’s team.” We can repeal ObamaCare, and move on to fulfilling the rest of the promises President Trump made in his “Contract with the American Voter.”

Jenny Beth Martin is the cofounder Tea Party Patriots. Follow her @jennybethm.


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