President Trump shifted blame to Democrats for the failure of the GOP majority to take up legislation to repeal-and-replace Obamacare, predicting that they would come to the table for future legislation when they see that the current health law fails.
House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the repeal-and-replace legislation from the floor on Friday after it became clear that it did not have enough Republican support to move it forward. No Democrats were expected to vote for the bill.
“We were very close,” Trump told reporters from the Oval Office. “The best thing we can do politically speaking is let Obamacare explode.”
He suggested that more Democrats would be willing to negotiate as the current law falters, and that “someday in the not too distant future” there would be new health reform legislation that draws bipartisan support.
Republican moderates as well as the most conservative lawmakers had objected to the legislation. The White House and House leaders were unable to come up with a plan that satisfied both moderates and conservatives.
Amid a chaotic scramble for votes, House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, who has championed the bill, met with Trump at the White House before the bill was pulled from the House floor after hours of debate.
After the defeat, Ryan said that the failure was a “setback, no two ways about it.”
“I wish we had the consensus we needed to bring a bill to the floor to replace it,” Ryan said. “We needed 216 people. We were close. But we didn’t have 216 people.”
He said that “Obamacare is the law of the land” and that “we are going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future.” He continued to insist that the Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, would not survive in its current form.
Trump said that they would now move on to tax reform. Ryan said that the failure of the healthcare bill would make GOP plans to do tax reform “more difficult, but not impossible.”
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Without the bill’s passage in Congress, Democratic former President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement, the 2010 Affordable Care Act – known as Obamacare – would remain in place despite seven years of Republican promises to dismantle it.
Repealing and replacing Obamacare was a top campaign promise by Trump in the 2016 presidential election, as well as by most Republican candidates, “from dog-catcher on up,” as White House spokesman Sean Spicer put it during a briefing on Friday.
The House failure to pass the measure called into question Trump’s ability to get other key parts of his agenda, including tax cuts and a boost in infrastructure spending, through a Congress controlled by his own party.
“There’s nobody that objectively can look at this effort and say the president didn’t do every single thing he possibly could with this team to get every vote possible,” Spicer told reporters before the legislation was pulled.
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Trump already has been stymied by federal courts that blocked his executive actions barring entry into the United States of people from several Muslim-majority nations. Some Republicans worry a defeat on the healthcare legislation could cripple his presidency just two months after the wealthy New York real estate mogul took office.
In a blow to the bill’s prospects, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen announced his opposition, expressing concern about reductions in coverage under the Medicaid insurance program for the poor and the retraction of “essential” health benefits that insurers must cover.
“We need to get this right for all Americans,” Frelinghuysen said.
Additional reporting by David Morgan, David Lawder, Susan Cornwell, Susan Heavey, Richard Cowan, Patricia Zengerle and Doina Chiacu; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Bill Trott and Bill Rigby