WASHINGTON—Republicans in Congress failed to drum up enough support for their Obamacare replacement for the second day in a row, forcing leaders to indefinitely postpone a vote on the legislation.
“You’ve all heard me say this before: Moving from an opposition party to a governing party comes with growing pains,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. “Well, we’re feeling those growing pains today.
On Capitol Hill, lawmakers headed in and out of meetings all day today trying to gauge support levels for the American Health Care Act (AHCA). The night before, President Donald Trump told Republicans they could either vote for the AHCA or keep Obamacare. But minutes before the rescheduled vote time Friday, Trump changed his mind after seeing Republicans lacked the needed votes to proceed. Ryan suggested pulling the vote from the floor, and the president agreed. Some within the GOP are hopeful the party will go back to the drawing board to improve the legislation, but, Ryan said, for now, Obamacare will remain the law of the land.
“I will not sugarcoat this, this is a disappointing day for us,” Ryan said. “This is a setback—no two ways about it.”
Ryan told reporters he’s proud of the AHCA and the whip team “got really close” to securing the 216 Republican votes needed to pass the bill onto the Senate.
Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus were some of the loudest critics of the bill. They said the AHCA did not fulfill the promises they made to their constituents of fully repealing the Affordable Care Act.
After Ryan announced the vote cancellation, Freedom Caucus member Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, told me he was relieved because he planned to vote “no.”
“This bill was far short of what we promised voters,” Davidson said. “I think it was smart to delay the vote if it was going to fail.”
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a co-founder of the conservative lawmakers group, said repealing Obamacare would remain one of his top priorities.
“House Republicans owe it to our constituents to immediately get back to the drawing board and bring forward a bolder effort to replace the failing Obamacare with a plan to reduce costs by increasing choice and competition,” Jordan said in a statement. “I look forward to working with my Republican colleagues to accomplish this goal.”
Ryan said he wouldn’t blame any particular group for the failure because Freedom Caucus members were not the only lawmakers opposed to the bill. Many moderate members of the conference announced their opposition ahead of the vote while lawmakers debated the legislation on the House floor this afternoon.
Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, released a statement saying he could not support the AHCA because of cuts to Medicaid. More than 30 percent of Frelinghuysen’s constituents depend on the program.
After the announcement, lawmakers began leaving town without deciding on next steps for healthcare.
“Obamacare is the law of the land; it remains the law of the land until it gets replaced,” Ryan said. “We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future. I don’t know how long it’s going to take us to replace this law.”
— by Evan Wilt