President Donald Trump Friday afternoon called House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and asked him to pull the health care bill 30 minutes ahead of a scheduled floor vote. This is the second day in a row an expected House vote did not take place due to lack of Republican support from their own party for the Obamacare replacement.
The move was a major retreat for Trump, who demanded that lawmakers vote on the embattled GOP-crafted bill that’s facing stiff opposition from the conservative and moderate wings within the House Republican conference. In remarks Friday afternoon from the Oval Office, Trump said it was difficult to pass the bill without a single Democratic vote.
“Let Obamacare explode,” Trump said. “I think we have to let Obamcare go its way for a little while ... When it explodes, which it will soon, if [Democrats] got together with us and got a real health care bill, I’d be totally open to it.”
Trump thanked his party, Ryan and classified himself as a “team player” in the effort. But he also said there were things in the bill he “didn’t particularly love” and called on both parties to work together on future reform because “having bipartisan would be a big, big improvement.” He said in the meantime, Republicans would move on to tax reform.
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Despite a prior ultimatum from Trump, who had demanded Thursday evening the House vote on the bill on Friday, Republicans canceled a vote scheduled for 3:30 p.m. as it became clear the party wouldn’t have enough votes to pass it.
“I’m really proud of the bill that we produced,” Ryan said in a press conference at the Capitol. “It would make a dramatic improvement in our health care system.”
The bill faced opposition both from moderate Republicans, who said their constituents would be harmed because the American Health Care Act wouldn’t cover as many people as Obamacare, and from the House Freedom Caucus, because the bill didn’t bring premiums down enough. Despite last minute concessions to the Freedom Caucus and a Friday afternoon trip from Ryan to the White House, no agreement was reached.
“Today’s a great day for our country. It’s a victory. What happened on the floor is a victory for the American people,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, who was responsible for ushering Obamacare through the chamber in 2010. “The unity of our House Democratic members was a very important message to the country that we are very proud of the Affordable Care Act.”
Ryan said he didn’t want to “cast blame” on members of his party for the bill’s failure.
After a vote originally scheduled for Thursday was postponed because the bill did not have enough support and after attempts from the White House to negotiate with the Freedom Caucus, the administration said Trump wanted a vote Friday. If efforts to repeal and replace — which Republicans have been vowing to do for seven years — failed, the president said he was prepared to leave Obamacare in place and move on.
Vowing to dismantle the legislation was a signature campaign promise of Trump and congressional Republicans in last year’s election. Democrats unilaterally opposed the Republican attempt to roll back former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, so Ryan could only afford 22 defections from his own party.
“We’re going to be living with Obmacare for the foreseeable future,” Ryan said. “I don’t know how long it’s going to take us to replace this law.”