The House Freedom Caucus -- the most conservative and raucous bunch in the chamber -- appears to have ended its wait-and-see approach with the leaders of the GOP-controlled chamber, roughly 16 months after ousting House Speaker John Boehner.
The group of about 40 House Republicans has given new Speaker Paul Ryan a wide berth since he replaced Boehner a month later, in fall 2015, and so far has posed only token opposition to Ryan’s re-nomination.
But the group made a racket this week in attempting to resurrect an unpopular plot to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen and in calling for a quicker repeal and replacement of ObamaCare.
Republican Donald Trump vowed during his successful White House bid that repealing and replacing “disastrous” ObamaCare would be among his first official acts as president.
His promise was like a dream come true for House Republicans, particularly those in the fiscally conservative Freedom Caucus, considering they have tried dozens of times to at least partially repeal and replace ObamaCare since it was signed into law in 2010.
Congressional Republicans in the weeks after Trump’s surprise win called for immediate action, after years of unfulfilled promises to voters back home.
However, GOP leaders recently began talking about a two- or three-year effort, with no definitive plan to cover the roughly 20 million Americans who would lose coverage.
Such talk prompted new Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows to suggest earlier this week that the multi-year plan will be the group’s “first big fight” with leaders of the GOP-controlled Congress.
Meadows argues the entire process should be completed before the 2018 congressional elections, in which Republicans could lose their majority in either or both chambers.
“It should be repealed and replaced. And all of that should be done in the 115th Congress … not left to a future Congress to deal with,” he told Politico in an interview published Monday.
House Republicans last month voted in favor a second leadership term for Ryan. But he still faces a final floor vote in January, at the start of the 115th Congress, with members of the two-year-old Caucus having the potential to complicate matters by demanding a two-year repeal-replace program in exchange for their much-needed votes.
Meadows’ office was not able to fulfill a request last week by FoxNews.com for an interview.
The three-term North Carolina lawmaker was an early and solid Trump supporter but suggested last week that members of the fiscally conservative Caucus would oppose the president-elect's plan to impose tariffs on U.S. companies that move operations to other countries and still sell goods in America.
“I think, in general, most of our members would be against tariffs,” Meadows said on CNN.
The Caucus’ attempt last week to impeach Koskinen was led by outgoing Chairman Rep. John Jordon, Ohio, amid the argument Koskinen has tried to obstruct efforts by Congress to get to the bottom of the IRS targeting scandal that preceded him.
Jordon’s effort in September also was sidelined, amid fears that going after a non-Cabinet member would hurt GOP candidates’ chances in the November elections.
“With majorities in both chambers of Congress and control the White House, Republicans cannot squander the opportunity before them to put America back on the right track,” Adam Brandon, chief executive of the influential conservative group FreedomWorks, said Tuesday. “Now is the time for House Republican leaders to work with the House Freedom Caucus.”