If President Trump wants to succeed in getting his programs for needed reform enacted, he needs to find a way to gather the support of Freedom Caucus members like Idaho’s Rep. Raul Labrador, rather than engage in what would appear to be an unsuccessful effort to replace them in the next election.
In the exchange of “tweets” with Donald Trump recently, Labrador offered the president some very good advice: “Freedom Caucus stood with u when others ran. Remember who your real friends are.”
The Trump presidency commences at a critical time when the nation must collectively and promptly address our longstanding, complicated, intractable public policy problems with a fresh perspective and energy. However, nothing will be achieved without majority support in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The metrics from the first two and a half months of the new administration duly illustrate how closely the Congress and the president can effect change, if they work together. Trump has issued approximately 21 executive orders, but he has also signed 17 pieces of legislation passed by the House and Senate. Of those bills, nearly one-half were joint resolutions disapproving and voiding Obama administration last-minute regulations for the SEC, Social Security Administration, Bureau of Land Management and the departments of Interior, Labor, Defense and Education. By that collaboration, Trump and the Congress have hit a significant regulatory reset button signaling a simpler, smaller federal government, as favored by the conservative and frustrated citizens who voted Republican last November.
So how forward thinking is it for the president to tweet that three specific Freedom Caucus leaders must “get on board” with his preferred first version of a health care reform bill under penalty of being challenged in Republican primary races in their home districts during 2018?
First, promoting such contests is unwise as it will in all likelihood not produce victories for Trump-sponsored contenders against the incumbents. Last year only five of the sitting House members seeking re-election lost primary races.
Of Trump’s targets, Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows of North Carolina had no primary races in 2016 and won a third term by 64 percent of the final vote. Jim Jordan of Ohio is serving a fifth term, also with no primary last year and who attained 68 percent in the general. Our 1st District congressman, Labrador, won 68 percent last November and earned, against two opponents in the May primary, an astounding 81 percent majority from Republican voters.
Trump will not likely persuade home-state voters that these Freedom Caucus leaders are being “too conservative” in approaching the repeal of Obamacare. Instead, the president would do well to befriend them. With a margin of only two votes in the Senate and 24 in the House, every Republican member is a valuable administration ally.
As Labrador reminded the president in that same exchange, “We’re trying to help u succeed” — which is to echo the old Texas hill country warning to “dance with the one who brung ya.”
David H. Leroy, of Boise, is a former Idaho attorney general and lieutenant governor.