House Republicans have called off a planned vote on the GOP’s bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.
A vote on the American Health Care Act (dubbed “Trumpcare”) had originally been on tap for a Thursday vote to coincide with the seven-year anniversary of President Barack Obama signing the Affordable Care Act into law. That vote was delayed by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) when it was clear that the measure would fall short of votes needed to pass.
After hours on Thursday, President Trump pushed for a vote on Friday and Ryan agreed. Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) said about the health care proposal at the time, “They’re going to bring it up, pass or fail.”
However, around noon today, Ryan made his way to the White House to inform Trump that he did not have the votes. A vote had been scheduled for 3:30 p.m. but Ryan made it clear that no vote would happen.
Earlier in the day, Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), the Ranking Member of the Ways and Means Tax Policy Subcommittee, said about the bill, “Trumpcare is big on Trump, but weak on care.” He went on to say, “Mr. President, this is not the art of the deal; it is the art of the steal of taking away insurance coverage from families that really need it to provide tax breaks for those at the very top. Those who understand healthcare, the professionals, say reject this bill, and it should be.”
Ultimately, however, it was not the criticisms from the Democrats that were the death knell for the proposal but from within the Republican party. President Trump, who had campaigned on a promise to immediately repeal and replace Obamacare, had lobbied hard for the GOP proposal. Days ago, Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) said the President had sent Republicans in the House a message, “If you don’t pass the bill there could be political costs.”
Despite the push, House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) said yesterday that there would be “no deal.” That sentiment clearly did not change overnight.
On Friday morning, Trump appeared to try to back the Freedom Caucus into a corner, tweeting:
The threats didn’t work and more Republicans expressed reluctance to support the bill. Before noon, Republicans could only muster a firm 150 yes votes. They needed 218 yes votes.
At least half of the more moderate Republicans would not voice support for the measure. One of those, House Appropriations Committee Chair Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) expressed his disappointment with the bill, writing:
Seven years after enactment of Obamacare, I wanted to support legislation that made positive changes to rescue healthcare in America. Unfortunately, the legislation before the House today is currently unacceptable as it would place significant new costs and barriers to care on my constituents in New Jersey. In addition to the loss of Medicaid coverage for so many people in my Medicaid-dependent state, the denial of essential health benefits in the individual market raise serious coverage and cost issues.
Frelinghuysen went on to say that he remains “hopeful that the American Health Care Act will be further modified. We need to get this right for all Americans.”
It was a decidedly different tone from President Trump who had said, through his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, that he was giving Republicans just one chance to repeal the Affordable Care Act. If they failed, Trump indicated, then they would be stuck with Obamacare.
The original proposal was unveiled by Ryan earlier this month (you can read about the initial proposal here). The proposal drew immediate criticism from both sides of the aisle: Democrats were concerned about the numbers of insured persons who might drop off the health care rolls while conservative Republicans felt that the bill didn’t do enough to distinguish it from Obamacare. Moderate Republicans were concerned about potential pushback from voters who might lose coverage or face increased costs.
In a last-ditch effort to win support, Ryan made a number of tweaks to the proposal including accelerating repeal of certain Obamacare taxes and revamps to Medicaid (you can read about some of them here). It would not be enough.