With the Republican Affordable Care Act replacement plan, the American Healthcare Act, finally made public, House Speaker Paul Ryan’s task of herding cats has begun. One group in the House he needs to worry about is the House Freedom Caucus, founded back in 2015. While the exact membership isn’t publicly known, twenty-nine Congressmen have made their association public. Ryan can’t afford to lose more than twenty members and still get the bill passed, so they are going to be talked about more than fantasy Democrats or even weary moderates. They’ve made their distaste for the bill quite clear, so the task on Republican leaders trying to persuade the bulk of this group will be to find pressure points.
With that in mind, we looked at the confirmed Freedom Caucus members: whether President Trump received more votes than they did, which primary candidate their district had backed, and the Kaiser Family Foundation’s estimates of ACA Marketplace enrollment.
Five Representatives in the Caucus- Ted Yoho, Ron DeSantis, Morgan Griffith, Scott DesJarlais, and Alex Mooney- received fewer votes in November than Trump in their districts. Fourteen more voted for Trump in the primary, with the remaining ten representing districts voting for either Kasich or Cruz early last year. While the President’s national approval ratings are middling, he remains well liked by Republicans, so it is possible Party leadership and the President could pressure them to “keep their voters happy”. But, all of these Representatives have run a full cycle as Caucus members and have earned reputations for demanding repeal. Turning against all that and working with leadership, even Trump, has the potential to blow up against them back home.
The Kaiser Family Foundation found that a greater share of the total ACA marketplace enrollment is in Republican-held districts. I’m skeptical the enrollment numbers though will persuade these Representatives to bend: while a few sport marketplace numbers in the 40000’s, the public Caucus average is right in line with the national one. Besides, if marketplace enrollment had concerned them in their last few elections, they wouldn’t have been repeatedly advocating the end of Obamacare.
The Caucus hails from districts with about average ACA enrollment that voted mostly more for their Congressman than President. The Speaker needs their votes to get this bill to pass, but doesn’t really have much obvious leverage against its members.