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Texas Republican departs Freedom Caucus

Texas Republican departs Freedom Caucus
© Greg Nash

The group of conservative hardliners known as the House Freedom Caucus has officially lost two members since it came under fire for sinking the GOP healthcare bill last month.

Rep. Brian Babin's (R-Texas) spokesman, Jimmy Milstead, confirmed on Thursday that the Texas Republican had recently left the Freedom Caucus.

Babin told The Hill late last month that he was considering leaving the group amid frustration with fellow conservatives for withholding support for the legislation.

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In an interview with Fox Business on Wednesday, Babin indicated he thought the Freedom Caucus was impeding President Trump’s agenda to the detriment of the GOP.

“When President Obama came to office, we had to try to stop his socialist agenda. And I thought the Freedom Caucus was a great place to do that,” Babin said.

“Now we have the opportunity of a lifetime with President Trump in there and his conservative agenda. We have control of both houses of Congress, so we must make the best use of our opportunity.”

Babin is the second Republican to leave the Freedom Caucus since GOP leaders canceled a vote on the healthcare bill a month ago. 

Rep. Ted PoeLloyd (Ted) Theodore PoeCook shifts two House GOP seats closer to Dem column Five races to watch in the Texas runoffs Five Republican run-offs to watch in Texas MORE (R-Texas), like Babin, also planned to vote for the legislation and left the group in frustration.

Poe complained that the group was too rigid, saying in a CNN interview that “there's some members of the Freedom Caucus, they'd vote no against the Ten Commandments if it came up for a vote.”

The Freedom Caucus announced Wednesday that it would support the latest version of the healthcare bill following the adoption of an amendment brokered by its leader, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), and centrist Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.).

But it’s still unclear if the legislation has enough votes to pass, even with support from more conservatives. Centrist Republicans, many of whom face tough reelection races in 2018, remain opposed or have flipped from supporting the bill last month to expressing concerns this week about the latest proposal.

The amendment by MacArthur and Meadows would allow states to apply for waivers from key ObamaCare provisions that ban insurers from charging sick people higher premiums and mandate minimum insurance coverage requirements, as long as high-risk pools are offered as an alternative.