WASHINGTON – Republicans’ first attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare has failed.
GOP leaders could not overcome opposition by House conservatives who had ridiculed the bill as “Obamacare Lite.”
President Trump called House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Friday afternoon and asked him to shelve the health-care bill meant to replace the Affordable Care Act, because it just didn’t have the votes needed to pass in the House.
As WND reported earlier, a House Freedom Caucus source said a last-minute effort by Vice President Mike Pence to mediate a deal to save the bill had failed and it would be shelved.
A disappointed President Trump spoke to the press in the late afternoon and said, unfortunately, the best thing now was to let Obamacare explode, which it would do inevitably.
He said the real losers were Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., because now they “100 percent own Obamacare.”
“They have Obamacare for a little while longer until it ceases to exist, which it will at some point in the near future,” he predicted.
Asked if it was fair to the American people to let Obamacare explode, President Trump responded, “It’s going to happen. There’s not much you can do about it. Bad things are going to happen.”
He added, “There’s not much you can do to help it. I’ve been saying that for a year and a half. It’s not sustainable. There’s no way out.”
However, the president also predicted that once health-care premiums and other costs inevitably rise to an intolerable level, Democrats would join Republicans in crafting a health-care bill that would be even better than the one that just failed.
He chided Democrats for having defended Obamacare as “wonderful” and said, “Now it will go back to real life, people will see how bad it is and it’s getting much worse.”
“When President Obama left, 2017 was going to be a very bad year for Obamacare. Going to see explosive premium increases and the the deductibles are so high that no one is going to be able to use it.”
The president said Obamacare now could not be fixed until “we all become civilized” and Democrats come together with Republicans to draft a better bill.
President Trump said support for the American Health Care Act came up about 10 votes short, “a very tight margin.”
Asked if he felt betrayed by House conservatives, particularly members of the House Freedom Caucus, for their opposition to the bill, the president said no, he was disappointed but “they’re good guys” and friends of his.
The president thanked everyone who worked on the bill and said he himself had “worked as a team player,” but that perhaps the bill’s failure was the best thing that could happen, so a better health-care solution could emerge.
“This was an interesting period of time. We all learned a lot. We learned a lot about loyalty and we learned a lot about the vote getting process,” the president reflected.
“And we learned about very arcane rules in both the Senate and the House,” he said. “Certainly for me it was a very interesting experience, but for me, it’ll be an experience that leads to an even better health care plan.”
The decision to pull the bill came a day after the president had given lawmakers an ultimatum that he was through negotiating and it was time to vote on the bill, as is.
The president said he still had confidence in Ryan.
However. the New York Times reported on Thursday: “Mr. Trump has told four people close to him that he regrets going along with Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s plan to push a health care overhaul before unveiling a tax cut proposal more politically palatable to Republicans.”
At an afternoon news conference, Ryan said, “Doing big things is hard.”
He said they had come “really close” but “came up short” on getting the votes needed to pass the bill in the House.
“We just get didn’t consensus today,” said Ryan, “so it was the wise thing” to pull the bill.
The speaker said he called the president and advised him it would be best to shelve the bill, and he agreed.
President Trump has vowed to let Obamacare stand and move on to other issues if the Ryan bill failed.
However, Ryan called it a setback but not the end of the attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare.
“We will get there. We just didn’t get there today,” he said.
President Trump said he did not blame Ryan for the bill’s failure.
However, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich took a jab at Ryan, tweeting Friday afternoon: “Why would you schedule a vote on a bill that is at 17% approval? Have we forgotten everything Reagan taught us?”
A vote on the bill had been scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Eastern. Instead, the House went into recess and suspended debate over the legislation designed by Ryan and other House leaders, and supported by the White House.
The bill was strongly opposed by conservative members of the House who believe it leaves too much of Obamacare intact.
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., chair of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, or HFC, has insisted all week his group had enough “no” votes to kill the bill.
And he turned out to be right.
Conservatives want to fully repeal Obamacare, then address any other issues after that.
Although the conservatives in the HFC won this round, it may prove a costly victory in the end if President Trump does craft a deal with Democrats that ends up repealing even less of Obamacare.
After the bill died, a Washington Post reporter asked the president on Friday if working on a bipartisan health-care deal a year from now would be something he would find “more agreeable than whipping the hard right?”
“A lot of people might say that,” replied the president, with a laugh. “We’ll end up with a better health-care plan. A great plan. And you wouldn’t need the Freedom Caucus.”
Earlier in the day, Ryan had rushed to the White House to give the president an update on a vote count.
It must have been bad news, because they decided a few hours later to have the bill shelved before taking a vote.
Pence’s intervention came after a tense week of negotiations with conservatives in the House, who objected to the continuation of a number of elements of Obamacare, including an entitlement from the government for health care premiums.
They also objected to the continuation of mandatory minimums for health coverage.
Other House Republicans also were concerned that the absence of mandates could lead to more people being uninsured.
On Friday, Spicer told reporters the president had made extraordinary efforts to move the bill forward, diving deep into details during negotiations and personally engaging lawmakers with concerns.
But, the press secretary declared, the president had decided it was now time for House members to vote, up or down.
House leaders then apparently persuaded Trump it was not wise to hold a vote that was a sure loser.