Rep. Perry's caucus threatened by Trump
In the aftermath of a failed push for health care reform, President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Thursday morning threatening to campaign against members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which includes Rep. Scott Perry, in 2018 elections.
“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!” Trump wrote.
Trump had pushed for House Speaker Paul Ryan's bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act last week, but the bill was ultimately pulled before a vote as Ryan conceded he didn't have enough support to pass the measure.
Members of the Freedom Caucus publicly denounced the bill as "Obamacare-lite," and Trump met with the caucus midweek to try to convince them to support the bill, labeled the American Health Care Act.
Perry, R-Dillsburg, was recently elected to his third term after campaigning to repeal the Affordable Care Act. At a recent town hall meeting, he told constituents he would vote against Ryan's bill, though his office stated prior to the scheduled vote last Friday that he wasn't a definite "no."
After the bill was publicly pulled from consideration, Perry said in a statement that the proposed bill failed to end government control of personal health care.
"The fundamental problem with the ACA was the government takeover of personal health care decisions," he said. "Until we address that key point, we’ll never get to the root of the issue of rising costs and providing people with greater choice and flexibility in their health care coverage."
Perry added that he would continue to work with Trump and other House members to pass a reasonable health care proposal.
Recent election results suggest Trump would have a difficult time unseating Perry in the staunchly conservative 4th Congressional District, which includes an area just north of Harrisburg down to the Maryland line, west past Gettysburg and east to the Susquehanna River.
Perry faced no primary challengers in 2014 or 2016 after defeating his closest Republican competitor, York County Commissioner Chris Reilly, by nearly 35 points in 2012, according to records kept by the Pennsylvania Department of State.
Perry's office did not respond to requests for comment regarding Trump's tweet.
Ryan on Thursday said he was sympathetic to the president’s angry tweet, which came a day after a number of conservative groups met with White House senior officials to discuss the president’s agenda, including the failed health bill.
“I understand the president’s frustration. I share frustration,” said Ryan. “About 90 percent of our conference is for this bill to repeal and replace 'Obamacare' and about 10 percent are not, and that’s not enough to pass a bill.”
Ryan also said he worried that the defiant Republicans would push Trump “into working with Democrats” on health care, a result that he believed would not lead to a bill adherent to conservative principles. That comment drew sharp criticism Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, further showcasing the GOP’s intraparty divisions.
“We have come a long way in our country when the speaker of one party urges a president NOT to work with the other party to solve a problem,” Corker tweeted. In an interview later, he added: “It’s not the kind of thing the leader, speaker of the House should be saying.”
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.