A prominent Republican member of Congress on Sunday called the White House's threats to stir up primary challenges against those who opposed the GOP health care proposal in March "counterproductive."
Rep. Mark Sanford, the former South Carolina governor, said on CNN's "State of the Union" that White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, a former fellow congressman from Sanford's home state, delivered the threat to him from President Donald Trump.
"He said, 'The President hopes you vote against this because he wants to run somebody against you if you do,'" Sanford said.
Sanford said Trump made similar threats "to any number" of other Republicans, adding that he viewed those threats as "counterproductive."
"I don't think it's particularly productive to his own legislative agenda," Sanford said.
Despite the threat, Sanford remained opposed to the American Health Care Act, the bill Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan backed to repeal and replace major portions of Obamacare. With the bill's failure imminent, Ryan pulled a scheduled vote in late March, saying the GOP would be "moving on."
Republicans have continued to negotiate a health care bill since then.
Sanford said a vote could happen at some point in the near future and cited loyalty to his constituents in explaining his opposition to the previous attempt at overhauling health care.
"It doesn't make anybody's day when the President of the United States says, 'I want to take you out,'" Sanford said. "I don't work for him. I work for about 750,000 people here in the 1st congressional district."
Sanford said it was more important for the GOP to get health care right than deliver a speedy political win for Trump.
"The idea of checking the box saying we dealt with health care but not taking into account both the considerations of the left and right on this one, I think, ultimately, (is) not my job," Sanford said. "My job is to watch out for the folks that I'm hearing from here at home."
Despite his indirect clash with Trump, Sanford denied he would attempt to turn the tables and primary Trump in the 2020 election. He said he was focused on winning re-election in his congressional district.