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The Freedom to Say No

Idaho's own version of 'The Freedom Caucus' surfaces at Statehouse

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Reporting on the so-called "Freedom Caucus" in the U.S. Congress, BBC journalist Katie Shepherd asked on March 28, "Do these 29 white men run America?" Shepherd was referring to the group of lawmakers who have been credited with (or blamed for) derailing President Donald Trump's effort to repeal and replace Obamacare.

"The Freedom Caucus can make or break a bill," she said.

In an appearance March 29 on MSNBC's Morning Joe program—which turned testy—four-term Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), a founding member of the Freedom Caucus, doubled down on his opposition to the White House plan, dubbed "Trumpcare."

"Look, the White House gave us a 'take it or leave it' message," Labrador said. "Because I had a binary choice, I chose to leave it."

The conversation got heated after Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski pressed Labrador on another health care matter: The debate over paid family leave.

"I owned a business for 10 years. I paid for the insurance of the people that worked for me," said Labrador. "I gave them leave whenever they needed leave, and I helped them out."

When Brzezinski challenged that Labrador was talking about vacation or sick time, not paid leave, Labrador bristled.

"Look, that's not what I was told we would be talking about," Labrador said. "They had vacation, they had sick days and a bunch of things. Those things cost me money, and I did it willingly. I don't think the government should be forcing that. I know that you want the government to force more spending, but I don't."

Meanwhile, the Idaho Statehouse can expect more of the same arguments in the wake of a March 27 announcement from two freshmen legislators that they'll form an Idaho House Freedom Caucus.

Reps. Mike Kingsley (R-Lewiston) and Bryan Zollinger (R-Idaho Falls) appointed themselves co-chairmen of the group and said they had identified 10 other House members as potential Idaho Freedom Caucus members—24 current House members, including Speaker Scott Bedke (R-Oakley), were interested enough in the concept, they packed a March 27 meeting to hear more.

Compared to the "29 white men" in D.C., Zollinger said he looked forward to a "kinder, gentler" Idaho version.

"We aren't going to throw grenades," he said.

In the meantime, Zollinger was anxious to promote a Friday, March 31 GOP fundraiser in eastern Idaho. The event at the Idaho Falls headquarters of the Melaleuca Corporation promises a "shotgun giveaway" and will feature an appearance from Fox News host Jeanine Pirro, who has been agitating for the ouster of U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan based on his support of Trumpcare.

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