Congressman Ted Poe (R-Humble) surprised observers last week when he announced he would leave the House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative lawmakers whose opposition to the American Health Care Act (AHCA) put them at odds with President Donald Trump and House leadership.
The Freedom Caucus, which consists mainly of House members who identify with the Tea Party movement, opposed Obamacare, and most other initiatives of the previous administration, but had supported President Trump reliably until the AHCA debate.
Poe says the Freedom Caucus needs to evolve from an insurgency into a group that exercises power in a Congress that is now dominated by the Republican Party.
“What has occurred, especially in the healthcare legislation [is that] the Freedom Caucus quit being the party of opposition to the previous administration, but became the party of opposition to the current Republican conference,” he says.
On why the Freedom Caucus was formed:
“The purpose of the Freedom Caucus was to offer conservative principles on legislation…to offer a strong conservative voice to the previous administration’s legislation. That’s why it was started.”
On whether the group remains relevant, with Republicans in control of Congress and the White House:
“This was all part of the founding of the Freedom Caucus – to have a seat at the table in the Republican Conference. And the Freedom Caucus now has a seat at the table in the Republican conference. But in this latest legislation [the group] became the party of opposition to the Republican party. And that prevented legislation from getting passed.”
On why he announced his intention to leave the Freedom Caucus:
“I thought it was important that my constituents, the people in Texas understand the reason I was leaving the Freedom Caucus. Because the Freedom Caucus had become the opposition party in the Republican party and was really stonewalling legislation at the time.”
On whether splits among conservative House members could lead to a war within the Republican Party:
“No, I don’t think so. At the end of the day, we still have Obamacare, and that’s the problem. Conservatives – and I’m still as strong a conservative as anybody here – have to get legislation passed. We have to lead. Otherwise we’re stuck with the same situation…We’re not going to get everything we want in legislation.”
On whether the President and Congressional Republicans can get things accomplished with the Freedom Caucus opposing some initiatives:
“Yes. I believe so…The Freedom Caucus now has a seat at the table in the Republican Conference. It’s not being ignored anymore. And i think that is very important – that the Freedom Caucus and other members of the Republican Party all get their input on legislation before we actually vote on it. And now that’s occurring and I think the conservative principles of the Freedom Caucus will continue to have an impact on legislation.”