Trump takes aim at Republican conservatives: "We must fight them"

"We're trying to honor what we ran on - 100 percent repeal of the Affordable Care Act".

The White House told NBC News the tweet speaks for itself and did not clarify whether Trump was suggesting he would support primary challengers to Freedom Caucus members if they do not back his agenda. Republican leadership ultimately pulled the bill when they failed to earn the number of votes they would need in order to pass it.

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, the top Republican in Congress, said in an interview broadcast on Thursday he feared the Republican Party is pushing the president to the other side of the aisle so he can make good on campaign promises to redo Obamacare.

Poe's exit is the group's first defection since it emerged in 2015. He appeared to threaten electoral backlash, saying "we must fight them" and Democrats in 2018, when the next congressional midterm elections are held. Ten moderate Republicans opposed the legislation and every Democrat was expected to vote against it.

As Republicans recover from their health care defeat, the White House and GOP leaders in Congress are hoping to claim tax reform as their first major legislative achievement. The last government shutdown was orchestrated in part by North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows, who is now the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus.

Meadows says the group will be more flexible in this debate than they were on health care.

  • Carolyn Briggs