Wed, Mar 29, 2017 - Page 9 News List

Failure of healthcare bill leaves Trump scrabbling for scapegoats

The president’s targets include conservatives, Democrats and perhaps a jab at House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, as Republican hand-wringing continues

By Joanna Walters  /  The Guardian, NEW YORK

US President Donald Trump on Sunday sought to spread blame for the failure of his first attempt at passing major legislation , the replacement of former US president Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law.

As internecine squabbling continued in the Republican Party, the president’s targets included conservatives in US Congress, Democrats and, possibly, US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan.

On Twitter on Sunday morning, Trump wrote: “Democrats are smiling in [Washington] DC that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club for Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & O[bama]care.”

He was referring to the advocacy group Club for Growth, as well as the Heritage Group think tank and likely its advocacy offshoot Heritage Action for America, all conservative groups with influence on the members of the Freedom Caucus.

That hard-right House group’s withdrawal of support along with some Republican moderates caused Ryan and Trump to pull the health bill before a vote on Friday last week.

Provocatively, Trump lumped such groups together with congressional Democrats and mentioned Planned Parenthood, a federally funded provider of women’s healthcare services that is a lightning rod for anti-abortion groups.

Debate also continued about whether Trump or members of his administration had orchestrated an unusual attack on Ryan on Saturday, despite professions of unity from both the White House and the House speaker’s camp. Trump and Ryan spoke by telephone for an hour on Saturday.

In the morning, the president used Twitter to tell the public to watch a show on Fox News at 9pm, Judge Jeanine.

The former judge, prosecutor, district attorney and Republican political candidate from New York Jeanine Ferris Pirro then opened her show by saying: “Paul Ryan needs to step down as speaker of the House. He failed to deliver the votes.”

Trump’s senior adviser, Steve Bannon, is a former publisher of the hard-right Web site Breitbart, which has been harshly critical of Ryan.

Mick Mulvaney, formerly a member of the Freedom Caucus and now Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget, denied any move against the speaker.

“Never once have I seen him blame Paul Ryan,” Mulvaney said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “The people who are to blame are the people who would not vote yes.”

Mulvaney was one of the officials lobbying House Republicans to pass the bill, which was pulled less than one hour before lawmakers were due to vote.

“We haven’t been able to change Washington in the first 65 days,” Mulvaney said. “I know the Freedom Caucus. I helped found it. I never thought it would come to this.”

He would have been prepared to vote for the legislation, he said.

Speaking on CNN’s State of the Union about whether Trump had a motive to attack Ryan indirectly by flagging up the Fox News show, New York Republican Lee Zeldin, who supported the bill, said he believed the Trump “wouldn’t know that’s what was going to be said.”

About Ryan, he added: “I think he should stay as speaker.”

The leader of the Freedom Caucus, Mark Meadows of North Carolina, said on ABC’s This Week that healthcare reform was not dead, despite the failure of Ryan’s American Health Care Act (AHCA) and the president’s indications that he is ready to move on to tax reform.

“It’s like saying that Tom Brady lost at halftime,” Meadows said, in reference to the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl comeback win against the Atlanta Falcons last month.

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