Apr 18, 2017

Recess makes Freedom Caucus winners on Trumpcare

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals

David Zalubowski / AP

Moderate Republican House members have had a much tougher recess than conservatives when it comes to Trumpcare. Members from purple districts have had to weather angry liberals and disappointed conservatives, while conservatives have largely emerged as heroes.

I went to the town halls of Reps. Mike Coffman, a Colorado moderate who supported the House health care bill, and Ron DeSantis, a Florida member of the Freedom Caucus who opposed it.

  • Coffman was attacked by liberals angry about his support of Trumpcare, while some Republican constituents expressed disappointment with him for supporting a bill they thought would only make Obamacare's problems worse.
  • Meanwhile, DeSantis received much less blowback (although his town hall was folded into a speaker series at a local college) and is regarded by some of his constituents as having saved them from a bad health care bill.

"I think, quite frankly, most voters in this district were happy with how I explained the problems with the bill," DeSantis told me after his event ended. "Most of the Republicans who were here didn't think it was a good bill, and obviously the Democrats don't want to do anything that deals with Obamacare in that way."

Why this matters: With different factions of the GOP pointing fingers at one another, the blame game is only effective if members' constituents are angry with their representative. Right now, it seems like the Freedom Caucus is actually being celebrated for blocking Trumpcare, which was extremely unpopular nationally.

What to watch: Town halls this recess showed that moderates have the most to lose, and they may have made nervous members even more apprehensive of voting for Trumpcare — especially if it moves further to the right. Meanwhile, the Freedom Caucus has likely been emboldened in challenging GOP leadership.

"Are Republican voters going to blame [opponents of the bill] because the bill failed, because they were raising objections, or are they going to blame the people who created the bill?" DeSantis asked. "My sense is they're more frustrated with how the bill was created and what it didn't do."

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