If House Freedom Caucus members sink the GOP leadership’s health care bill Thursday, they should be stripped of plum committee assignments and denied access to campaign committee resources, Rep. Chris Collins told reporters Wednesday.
“If this goes down, they’re not on our team,” the New York Republican said.
“I’ve already said to the head of the NRCC — because I support other members – ’Don’t ever ask me to write a check to a member who votes ‘no’ this Thursday,’” Collins added.
Collins was the first member of Congress to endorse President Donald Trump during the primaries and has become one of his strongest defenders and a de facto spokesperson in Congress, so his saying that he doesn’t want the Freedom Caucus members on the GOP’s team is significant because he has the ear of the president and his allies.
“I would say his conversation yesterday in conference would suggest absolutely that,” Collins said when asked if Trump also feels that members who vote against the health care bill aren’t part of the team.
Trump warned the Republican conference Tuesday that the failure of the health care bill could derail the entire GOP agenda and lead to the 2018 loss of seats in Congress, if not their majorities in the House and Senate. The president also speculated that members who vote against the bill could face primary challenges, but said he was not threatening that himself.
Collins called for other retributions for Freedom Caucus members if they defeat the health care bill.
“I would have the Steering Committee, much like [former Speaker John A.] Boehner did a few years ago, look at the committee assignments,” he said. “Somebody who votes ‘no’ on this should not be sitting on a top committee, plain and simple. This is too important. This is it. This is all the marbles.”
The Freedom Caucus is acting like President Barack Obama is still in the White House, Collins added.
“They still think they’re trying to vote on shutting down the government or something,” he said. “We have a Republican president, ladies and gentlemen. It’s time to learn how to govern with all the levers and that means compromise. That’s what this is, a good compromise bill.”
Collins said he’s not aware of whether leadership plans to bring the bill to the floor if they don’t have the votes to pass it, but he believes they should.
“I just can’t conceive of them pulling it,” he said. “And I say that because, what’s going to change? If nothing is going to change, put it up. Because that’s when the binary choice hits.”
Like with the presidential election when many Republicans said they could not support Trump, the binary choice didn’t register until it came time to vote, Collins said.
Everything before the vote is just posturing, he said, noting, “That’s where the pressure comes down.”