President Donald Trump is tweeting mad. He let fly at the House Freedom Caucus Thursday morning, telling them to get in line and pass the Republican stuff that he and House Speaker Paul Ryan want to pass.
The Freedom Caucus, an amorphous group of several dozen representatives who are frequently mislabeled “conservative,” has not issued a reply. Perhaps because they can count.
On a normal sunny day in Washington, it takes 218 votes for legislation to pass the House of Representatives. Right now, Republicans have 237 seats, with a handful of vacancies. If a couple dozen Freedom Caucus members choose not to cooperate, Republicans can’t pass legislation on party-line votes. Freedom Caucus members often choose not to cooperate because caucus members hate government, including the branch they occupy.
Ryan can count, too. Rather than repeating Trump’s attack on Democrats and Freedom Caucus members, who together make up a majority of the House, Ryan took a different tack in an interview with CBS News. Discussing the recently deceased Republican healthcare legislation, he encouraged the Freedom kids to play ball with the other Republicans, lest Trump make friends with the Democrats.
“If we don’t do this, then he’ll just go work with Democrats to try and change Obamacare,” Ryan said. “And that’s hardly a conservative thing.”
Ryan did not detail why Democrats would work with Trump to destroy Obamacare, their signature accomplishment of recent years, or why Trump would work with Democrats to strengthen and preserve what he has repeatedly vowed to destroy. Nor did Ryan mention where Trump would find a couple dozen Republican votes to add to the Democratic number in order to produce a majority.
These remain, for now, complete mysteries.
But Ryan did reveal his deep faith in Trump’s ability to accomplish with the opposition party what he so far has failed to accomplish with his own.
“This is a can-do president who’s a business guy who wants to get things done,” Ryan said. “I know that he wants to get things done with the Republican Congress. But if this Republican Congress allows the perfect to be the enemy of the good, I worry we’ll push the president into working with Democrats.”
Of the two threats — Trump’s and Ryan’s — it’s unclear which is the more incredible.
Francis Wilkinson writes editorials on politics and U.S. domestic policy for Bloomberg View.