Trump, GOP leaders withdraw health care bill

Humiliating loss "disappointing" to Republicans, Speaker Paul Ryan said

President Donald Trump meets with members of the media regarding the health care overhaul bill, Friday, March 24, 2017, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Donald Trump meets with members of the media regarding the health care overhaul bill, Friday, March 24, 2017, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a humiliating setback, President Donald Trump and GOP leaders pulled their “Obamacare” repeal bill off the House floor Friday after it became clear the measure would fail badly.

It was a stunning defeat for the new president after he had demanded House Republicans vote on the legislation Friday, threatening to leave “Obamacare” in place and move on to other issues if the vote failed. The bill was withdrawn minutes before the vote was to occur.

The president’s gamble failed. Instead Trump, who campaigned as a master deal-maker and claimed that he alone could fix the nation’s health care system, saw his ultimatum rejected by Republican lawmakers who made clear they answer to their own voters, not to the president.

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. leaves the White House in Washington, Friday, March 24, 2017, after meeting with President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. leaves the White House in Washington, Friday, March 24, 2017, after meeting with President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Republicans have spent seven years campaigning against former President Barack Obama’s health care law, and cast dozens of votes to repeal it in full or in part. But when they finally got the chance to pass a repeal bill that actually had a chance to get signed, they couldn’t pull it off.

What happens next is unclear, but the path ahead on other priorities, such as overhauling the tax code, can only grow more daunting.

Trump says he’d bargain with Dems on health care 

President Donald Trump says he would be willing to reopen negotiations for a health care bill with Democrats if the Affordable Care Act fails.

Trump told reporters Friday that he would be “open to it” if Democrats wanted to work on a bipartisan measure. He predicted the current law would soon collapse.

The president says he has a great relationship with the Republican Party and isn’t going to speak badly about GOP lawmakers. Still, he said he was a little surprised by the bill’s rejection from the conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus.

Trump also said he “never said repeal and replace it within 64 days,” though he repeatedly promised during the campaign to do it on Day One of his term.

Trump says his health care reform fell short because it lacked support from Democrats.

Trump made his first comments about the failure of a signature legislative item Friday in the Oval Office a short time after a House vote on the bill was cancelled.

Trump told reporters “we were very close” and tried to blame Democrats, through Republicans control both the House and the Senate.

He also predicted the Affordable Care Act would soon implode, forcing Democrats to join the Republicans at the negotiating table.

Politically weakened

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., one of the stewards of the Republican health care legislation, leaves the Capitol Hill office of House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., Friday, March 24, 2017, as the House nears a vote on their health care overhaul. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., one of the stewards of the Republican health care legislation, leaves the Capitol Hill office of House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., Friday, March 24, 2017, as the House nears a vote on their health care overhaul. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

And Trump is certain to be weakened politically, a big early congressional defeat adding to the continuing inquiries into his presidential campaign’s Russia connections and his unfounded wiretapping allegations against Obama.

The development came on the afternoon of a day when the bill, which had been delayed a day earlier, was supposed to come to a vote, come what may. But instead of picking up support as Friday wore on, the bill went the other direction, with some key lawmakers coming out in opposition.

Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey, chairman of a major committee, Appropriations, said the bill would raise costs unacceptably on his constituents. Rep. Barbara Comstock of Virginia, a key moderate Republican, and GOP Rep. David Joyce of Ohio also announced “no” votes.

The defections raised the possibility that the bill would not only lose on the floor, but lose big.

In the face of that evidence, and despite insistences from White House officials and Ryan that Friday was the day to vote, leadership pulled back from the brink.

The GOP bill would have eliminated the Obama statute’s unpopular fines on people who do not obtain coverage and would also have removed the often-generous subsidies for those who purchase insurance.

Donald Trump
Sporting an “I Love Trucks” button, President Donald Trump speaks meets with truckers and industry CEOs regarding healthcare, Thursday, March 23, 2017, in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Republican tax credits would have been based on age, not income like Obama’s, and the tax boosts Obama imposed on higher-earning people and health care companies would have been repealed. The bill would have ended Obama’s Medicaid expansion and trimmed future federal financing for the federal-state program, letting states impose work requirements on some of the 70 million beneficiaries.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the Republican bill would have resulted in 24 million additional uninsured people in a decade and lead to higher out-of-pocket medical costs for many lower-income and people just shy of age 65 when they would become eligible for Medicare. The bill would have blocked federal payments for a year to Planned Parenthood.

Democrats were uniformly opposed. “This bill is pure greed, and real people will suffer and die from it,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state.


Previous coverage from the Associated Press

The GOP bill would eliminate the Obama statute’s unpopular fines on those who do not obtain coverage and the often generous subsidies for those who purchase insurance. Instead, consumers would face a 30 percent premium penalty if they let coverage lapse.

Pete Sessions, Tom Cole
After eight hours of debate, House Rules Committee Chairman Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, left, and Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., the vice-chair, listen to arguments from committee chairs as the panel meets to shape the final version of the Republican health care bill before it goes to the floor for debate and a vote, Wednesday, March 22, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Republican tax credits would be based on age, not income like Obama’s subsidies, and tax boosts Obama imposed on higher-earning people and health care companies would be repealed. The bill would end Obama’s Medicaid expansion and trim future federal financing for the federal-state program, let states impose work requirements on some of its 70 million beneficiaries.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has said the Republican bill would result in 24 million additional uninsured people in a decade and lead to higher out-of-pocket medical costs for many lower-income and older people just shy of age 65, when they become eligible for Medicare.

Obama’s law increased coverage through subsidized private insurance for people who don’t have access to workplace plans, and a state option led t expansion of Medicaid for low-income residents. More than 20 million people have gained coverage since the law was passed.

Democrats were uniformly against the GOP drive to roll back one of Obama’s legacy achievements.

“This bill is pure greed, and real people will suffer and die from it,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state.

In Friday’s first meaningful roll call, the House used a near party-line 230-194 vote to approve changes that leaders hoped would win over unhappy Republicans. These included improving Medicaid benefits for some older and disabled people and abolishing Obama’s requirements that insurers cover specific services like maternity care.

House leaders seem to be calculating that at crunch time enough dissidents will decide against sabotaging the bill, Trump’s young presidency and the House GOP leadership’s ability to set the agenda, with a single, crushing defeat.

Republicans can lose only 22 votes in the face of united Democratic opposition. A tally by The Associated Press found at least 32 “no” votes, but the figure was subject to fluctuation amid frantic GOP lobbying.

GOP aides were privately saying conservative opposition was softening, yet another moderate announced he would oppose the legislation. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, of New Jersey, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said the bill “would place significant new costs and barriers to care on my constituents.”

For one opponent, Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., Trump’s declaration that Friday was the GOP’s last shot at repealing Obama’s statute seemed to inspire only defiance.

The Capitol is seen at dawn, Friday, March, 17, 2017, in Washington. Several issues key to President Donald Trump are in play next week as Congress works on the Republican health care overhaul, the confirmation of a Supreme Court appointment, and the investigation on Russian influence on the American presidential election and Trump’s claims that former President Obama spied on him. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

“We’re the legislative body last I looked, not the president,” Gosar said.

Other Republicans said it was time for party loyalty.

“Too many people on our team feel like we have team members that are not, they’re deserting us,” said Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., an early Trump supporter. “And in some cases for self-preservation. When someone says I have to vote no or I won’t be re-elected, I don’t respect that.”

Even if they prevail in the House, Republicans face an uphill climb in the Senate, where conservatives and moderates are also threatening to sink it the legislation.

In an embarrassing setback Thursday, leaders abruptly postponed the vote because a rebellion by conservatives and moderates would have doomed the measure. They’d hoped for a roll call Thursday, which marked the seventh anniversary of Obama’s enactment of his landmark health care statute that Republicans have vowed ever since to annul.