DENVER – After chiding a conservative group of congressmen for helping upend the House plan to replace Obamacare for the past week, President Donald Trump on Thursday cozied up to one of its members: Colorado’s Republican Rep. Ken Buck.
“Great op-ed from Rep. Ken Buck. Looks like some in the Freedom Caucus are helping me end Obamacare,” Trump tweeted Thursday afternoon, linking out to an op-ed Buck wrote for The Hill Wednesday in which he called for the revival of a new health care bill.
Buck had sent several tweets earlier in the day urging the reconsideration of the American Health Care Act, which was pulled from consideration last week after it failed to get near enough votes to pass a hastily-ordered full House vote.
“Our duty to the American people is to improve upon the current healthcare mess. That’s why I support the AHCA,” Buck tweeted in the first of a series of tweets linking to his op-ed.
“Yes, I’m a conservative. I pal around with those liberty-loving Freedom Caucus guys…And frankly, if you asked the Speaker [House Speaker Paul Ryan], I think he’d tell you I’m a bit of a right-wind rabble-rouser,” Buck wrote in the article.
Buck originally was stand-offish about supporting the AHCA, but ended up supporting it despite a formal vote never being taken. He noted his fluid position in the article as well.
“I’ll be clear: I criticized the process we followed to arrive at this bill. We went too fast. We held hearings, but they were not recent and failed to create a consensus in this country. We left our important provisions,” he wrote. “But ultimately, this bill was worth supporting.”
“Transitioning from an opposition party to the governing party can come with growing pains. But if we want to achieve our principled outcomes, like the end of ObamaCare and its replacement with a free-market system, then we have to learn how to come together as a party and govern,” he continued in his article. “And governing means supporting the AHCA. I supported it, will continue to support it, and encourage my colleagues to support it as well.”
Buck is one of few Freedom Caucus members who has extended an olive branch back to the president after a heated fight over the health care bill, and after praising Buck, he minutes later slammed three other Freedom Caucus members who have been critical of the president – including the chair of the caucus.
“Where are @RepMarkMeadows, @Jim_Jordan and @Raul-Labrador? #RepealANDReplace #Obamacare,” the president tweeted just after giving a nudge to Buck’s op-ed.
“If @RepMarkMeadows, @Jim_Jordan and @Raul_Labrador would get on board we would have both great healthcare and massive tax cuts & reform,” he followed up.
Meadows is the chairman of the caucus. Neither he nor Jordan have issued further statements since the bill was pulled last week.
But had the president checked Labrador’s Twitter account, he would know how the Idaho congressman was feeling.
“Freedom Caucus stood with u when others ran. Remember who your real friends are. We’re trying to help you succeed,” Labrador replied to one of Trump’s several tweets slamming the conservative caucus.
“R’s promised to repeal ACA’s ‘knot of regulations, taxes, and mandates.’ AHCA fails to do so and polls @ 17%,” he followed up.
Those tweets came in response to one from Thursday morning in which 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!”
And after the bill was pulled last week, Trump tweeted Monday that the caucus was “able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.”
“After so many bad years, they were ready for a win!” he said.
But being the president’s scapegoat for the failure of the AHCA hasn’t sat well with most Freedom Caucus members.
Rep. Tom Garrett, R-Virginia, tweeted, “Stockholm syndrome?” in reply to Trump’s latest tweet bashing the Freedom Caucus.
“Intimidation may work with some in the short term, but it never really works in the long run…What you can’t do is shoot messengers,” Rep. Mark Sanford, R-South Carolina, told the New York Times.
“Most people don’t take well to being bullied…It’s constructive in fifth grade,” Rep. Justin Amash, R-Michigan, told The Times. “It may allow a child to get his way. But that’s not how our government works.”
According to a Quinnipiac poll released before the bill was pulled, just 17 percent of Americans and only 41 percent of Republicans support the AHCA, which would have led to an additional 24 million people being uninsured by 2026 than would have been under an unchanged Obamacare, according to a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
Kyle Huwa, the spokesman for Buck’s office, told Denver7 that Buck decided Friday that he would vote for the bill, had one been taken. He told CNN earlier in the week he was “leaning no” on the bill, but changed his mind by Friday, Huwa said.
Buck was quoted in multiple Denver media outlets Friday morning as saying he still wasn't sure whether he'd vote for the bill, and one of the outlets is questioning whether or not Buck ever truly supported the bill.
Buck, like Meadows and Jordan, said after the bill was pulled that they still wanted Obamacare to be repealed and replaced.
Buck was not among nearly three-dozen Republicans The Times pointed out as not supporting the bill after it was pulled.