After weeks of contentious negotiations over the American Health Care Act (AHCA), Republicans had to admit defeat as they could not gain sufficient support from their own side for the plan to overhaul US health insurance.
Speaking afterward in the Oval Office, US President Donald Trump blamed Democrats for the failure of a bill to repeal the signature achievement of former US president Barack Obama.
“If [Democrats] got together with us and got us a real healthcare bill, I’d be totally OK with that. The losers are [US House of Representatives Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi and [Senate Minority Leader] Chuck Schumer, because they own ‘Obamacare.’ They 100 percent own it,” he said.
Trump refused to bash the House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, but declined to answer a question about policy changes he would like to see in health reform.
Instead, he said he was ready to move on to tax reform, saying: “We’re probably going to start going very strongly on big tax cuts. Tax reform that will be next.”
He added: “We all learned a lot. We learned a lot about loyalty.”
Earlier on Friday, as it became clear that Republican resistance to the bill was hardening, Ryan went to the White House to tell Trump in person that he did not have the votes to pass the bill.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer had insisted the vote would go ahead at 3:30pm.
“Has the team put everything out there, have we left everything on the field? Absolutely,” he told reporters at his daily briefing. “But at the end of the day this isn’t a dictatorship and we’ve got to expect members to ultimately vote how they will according to what they think.”
However, Spicer’s imagined 3:30pm deadline slid by, ignored by Republicans on Capitol Hill, and the first reports emerged that Trump had asked for the vote to be pulled. Minutes later House Republicans, short of votes, had withdrawn the health bill.
“Moving from an opposition party to a governing party comes with growing pains and, well, we’re feeling those growing pains today. I will not sugarcoat this: This is a disappointing day for us,” Ryan said at a news conference.
He said “doing big things is hard” and conceded that after almost a decade of saying no to everything in opposition, the Republicans had failed to come together and agree on something they have opposed for seven years.
“We are going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future,” he said.
Ryan said he had recommended the bill be pulled when he realized the votes were lacking.
However, he praised Trump’s role in the negotiations, saying: “The president gave his all in this effort; he’s really been fantastic. Still, we’ve got to do better and we will.”
Asked how Republican members could now go back to their constituents having failed to keep their promise, Ryan replied: “That’s a really good question. I wish I had a better answer for you.”
An emergency meeting of the House Republican Caucus was called shortly before the scheduled vote. As it was announced, the House went to recess, with Democrats shouting in a taunting manner, “Vote, vote, vote,” daring Republicans to bring the bill up. They did not.
“Ultimately, the ‘Trumpcare’ bill failed because of two traits that have plagued the Trump presidency since he took office: Incompetence and broken promises. In my life, I have never seen an administration as incompetent as the one occupying the White House today. They can’t write policy that actually makes sense, they can’t implement the policies they do manage to write, they can’t get their stories straight, and today we’ve learned that they can’t close a deal, and they can’t count votes,” Schumer said in a statement.
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