BY SERAPHIM SPARROW
President Donald Trump adamantly insisted that he would get rid of the Affordable Care Act put in place during the Obama administration. However, the Republicans’ were unable to replace the predominantly liberal health care bill with a relatively conservative version. This unsuccessful attempt has led to President Trump blaming his Republican colleagues in the House of Representatives for this failure, specifically the Freedom Caucus, one of the most conservative factions.
This intrapartisan conflict among the Republicans is interesting because, like the Freedom Caucus, President Trump has a very conservative political philosophy. On the surface, one would expect cooperation and agreement between President Trump and the Freedom Caucus. However, as this is clearly not the case, it is important to investigate the reasons why a conservative group would undermine the actions of a conservative president.
Conservatives today tend to believe in smaller government as well as “fiscal restraint.” Therefore, the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, which both is expected to cost over $1.34 trillion over the next decade and requires payment of a fine by anyone who did not participate in the program, is obviously against a conservative view on government. The Republicans’ failed bill would have repealed the individual mandate requiring citizens to have health insurance, a move expected to save $337 billion over the next decade. One would expect these changes, at least on the surface, to appeal to conservatives, yet one of the most conservative factions in the House of Representatives was not on board. This is because “Freedom Caucus members were particularly concerned about the willingness of House leaders to leave the vast majority of Obamacare’s regulations on the books – after Republicans spent seven years promising that the party would repeal and replace Obamacare.” The Freedom Caucus’s perspective illustrates that a healthcare bill with some conservative elements is not enough. If President Trump wants the support of the Freedom Caucus, the bill clearly will have to scrap a great deal of the existing health care policy under the Affordable Care Act.
Now that it is clear why the Freedom Caucus does not support the new Republican sponsored health care bill, let us examine President Trump’s claim that the Freedom Caucus is to blame. When a bill is voted on in the House of Representatives, 218 votes are needed for the bill to move to the Senate, which means 217 representatives can vote against. The Freedom Caucus, as of 2015, had 36 confirmed members. Therefore, the Freedom Caucus cannot be entirely to blame for the bill not passing, but let us look deeper. There are currently 188 Democrats and 247 Republicans in the House of Representatives. Therefore, if the Democrats vote one way and the Republicans vote another, the Freedom Caucus, by not supporting the Republicans, would drop the total vote for the Republicans to 211, which is not enough to pass a bill. Based on these facts, the Freedom Caucus has immense power to influence bills that will likely be split into Democrats versus Republicans. The Freedom Caucus, by not supporting the new healthcare bill, did just that.
Even though the Freedom Caucus clearly was one of the main reasons Obamacare was not changed, they are not the ones to blame. Trump stated that we need to “repeal and replace the disaster known as Obamacare.” This new healthcare proposal does not reflect such a change. The proposed bill will keep in place many of the facets of Obamacare with a few conservative changes here and there. Therefore, if blame is to be assigned, it ought to be assigned to President Trump and the Republicans who are not fulfilling their promises to the American people. The Freedom Caucus, through their voting power, is holding the Republican party accountable.