×

Obamacare replacement yanked in House as GOP fails to win support

Health care sure is hard. Very.

The embattled bill seeking to replace major parts of Obamacare was yanked Friday from the floor of the House after it became clear that the measure would be defeated, in large part because of opposition from a relative handful of conservative and moderate Republicans.

And President Donald Trump said that the overall Republican effort in Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare could be suspended for some time, as his administration pivots to the issue of tax reform.

"We were very close, it was a tight margin," Trump said of the bill dubbed the American Health Care Act.

"We have to let Obamacare go its own way for a little while," said Trump, who also predicted that Obamacare is "now likely to explode."

"Obamacare is the law of the land, it's going to remain the law of the land," a disappointed House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc. told reporters.

"We're going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future."

Hillary Clinton, who was defeated by Trump in last fall's presidential race, tweeted, "Today was a victory for all Americans."

The failure of Republican leaders to pass their replacement plan — which they have repeatedly vowed to do — came a day after the seventh anniversary of the signing into law of the Affordable Care Act, as Obamacare is formally known, by President Barack Obama.

NBC News reported that Trump asked that the bill be pulled after it became obvious that the measure would fail in a scheduled vote.

A source told NBC that Ryan, during visit to Trump at the White House earlier Friday afternoon, had "pleaded to pull" the bill after telling the president that the GOP leaders had failed to convince enough of their fellow Republicans to support the plan.

Trump — who had wanted the vote — personally told Washington Post reporter Robert Costa about the move to avoid an embarrassing loss in the House during a phone call, Costa tweeted.

"We just pulled it," Trump reportedly said to Costa about the bill.

Trump also told Costa that he didn't blame Ryan for the failure to get the bill passed.

Costa told MSNBC that Trump told him that the health-care reform was not going to be pushed in the near future, but added that it might be resurrected before the end of the year.

Trump later called New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, who tweeted that the president expected Democrats to be blamed for the aftermath of the suspended vote.

Trump, in later statements in the Oval Office, said Republicans were 10 to 15 votes short of what they needed to ensure passage of the bill.

He also said, "I'm a little surprised" to opposition to the bill from the House Freedom Caucus, a group of strongly conservative Republicans.

"We just didn't quite get consensus today," Ryan told reporters. "We came very close."

"This is a disappointing day for us. Doing big things is hard," said Ryan, who noted that moving from an opposition party to a governing party, as Republicans have done in recent months, is difficult.

"This is a setback, no two ways about it," Ryan said. "But it's not the end of the story."

The speaker also predicted that "Obamacare is going to get even worse" in the absence of reform of the law.

GOP leaders and Trump have said Obamacare is a failure with premiums and deductibles that are too high, and a lack of choice among insurance plans for customers.

Trump's election as president in November, combined with Republican control of both chambers of Congress, had given the GOP its first real chance to repeal Obamacare in the law's existence.

But an increasing number of GOP House members had declared their opposition to the bill since Thursday night.

Republicans could afford to lose at most 22 members of their caucus in the vote. But as of Friday afternoon, there were 34 GOP House members publicly opposing the bill, according to an NBC tally.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI)
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI)

Ryan visited Trump at the White House at around 1 p.m. to inform him of the shortfall in support.

Trump on Thursday night had demanded that the House vote on the plan on Friday, and said he would not agree to change the bill further than he already had in an effort to persuade wavering Republicans to back it.

Shortly after the president drew that line in the sand, GOP leaders amended the bill further to allow states, as opposed to the federal government, to mandate what essential health benefits have to be part of all insurance plans.

But as was the case on Thursday, GOP leaders knew Friday that if the vote occurred as scheduled, the bill would be defeated.

The problem those leaders face is not from Democrats, who hold a minority of 193 seats in the House, and who were all expected to vote against the bill.

The problem came from a relative handful of conservative and moderate Republicans who opposed the bill for various reasons.

Conservatives griped that the bill, known as the American Health Care Act, did not do enough to repeal Obamacare, while moderates feared the bill would lead to millions of people becoming uninsured and seeing their health-care costs increase.

The yanking of the bill sharply underscores how difficult it will be for Republicans to undo Obamacare despite holding the White House and both chambers of Congress, and despite the party's repeated vow to kill a health-care law that it claims has harmed millions of Americans.

Democrats and other supporters of the Affordable Care Act rejoiced over the failure of the GOP to pass the bill.

The chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez, in a statement said, "This is a BFD," that is a "big [expletive] deal."

Tweet

The National Federation of Independent Businesses said that the failure to pass the bill "is extremely disappointing."

"Small businesses have struggled for seven years under Obamacare's taxes and mandates, and now that struggle will continue for the foreseeable future. Passing a bill with a massive tax reduction for small businesses should have been the easiest of votes for both parties," NFIB said in a statement.

Even if the AHCA had passed the House, it would have faced even tougher odds in the Senate, where a number of Republicans have voiced objections to either the entire bill, or to elements of it.

The bill would have repealed Obamacare's mandate that most Americans have some form of health coverage or pay a fine, and would have reversed a set of taxes that affect wealthy Americans.

The bill also would have reconfigured the Obamacare system of subsidizing the purchase of individual health plans, which would have made financial assistance available to potentially many more people, while at the same time reducing the amount of aid most actual customers were likely to get.

The plan also sought to roll back Obamacare's funding for states that expanded Medicaid benefits and to change the way the federal government awards all states Medicaid money. Those changes would have decreased federal funding over time to that program, which primarily provides health coverage to poor people.