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24 Mar, 2017 19:39

'Just don't have consensus': Republicans pull healthcare bill ahead of House vote

'Just don't have consensus': Republicans pull healthcare bill ahead of House vote

President Donald Trump has reportedly asked the House GOP leadership to pull a bill eliminating major financial provisions of Obamacare ahead of a scheduled vote, despite a week of intense negotiations involving Trump himself.

"We just pulled it," Trump told the Washington Post's Robert Costa, adding that he doesn't blame House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) for the bill's failure.

The vote on the American Health Care Act (AHCA) was originally scheduled for Thursday, the seventh anniversary of the signing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, unofficially known as Obamacare. House GOP leadership postponed the vote until Friday after it became clear it would not happen until the middle of the night because they did not have enough votes.

“This is a disappointing day for us,” Ryan told reporters Friday afternoon, describing the setback as “growing pains” that come from moving from opposition to governing.

Ryan thanked Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, OMB Director Mick Mulvaney and HHS Secretary Tom Price for their support for the bill, and said the House Republicans just could not get enough of a consensus to proceed.

“There was a block of no votes that was the reason this did not pass,” Ryan said. “We’re going to live with Obamacare for the foreseeable future.”

The real losers of today’s drama were Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, Trump told reporters at the White House on Friday.

“Now they own Obamacare… for a little while longer, until it ceases to exist, which it will in the near future” he added.

Asked whether he felt betrayed by the House Freedom Caucus, Trump answered, “I’m not betrayed, I’m disappointed,” Trump said of the renegade Republicans who blocked the bill’s passage. “We could have had it.”

"I want great health care for the people of this nation," Trump said when asked if it was fair to let Obamacare fail. "But it won’t do that, it’s imploding and soon it will explode."

"Democrats will reach out when they’re ready," Trump added.

One Republican lawmaker, however, did not place blame on the Democrats. Rep. Joe Barton of Texas said members of his party were perhaps less willing to own the political consequences of repealing Obamacare than they expressed under President Barack Obama.

“Sometimes you’re playing Fantasy Football and sometimes you’re in the real game,” Barton said, according to Talking Points Memo. “We knew the president, if we could get a repeal bill to his desk, would almost certainly veto it. This time we knew if it got to the president’s desk it would be signed.”

Earlier on Friday, Ryan traveled to the White House to brief Trump that he didn't think that there were enough Republican votes to pass the bill, even after making major concessions to conservative members, including eliminating a requirement to cover essential benefits.

When asked if the White House considered postponing the vote again when the whip count still did not appear to be in favor of the bill by Friday afternoon, press secretary Sean Spicer said no.

"At some point, we either have a deal or we don’t. And I think that’s where the president finally drew the line and said we’ve been having this discussion, we’ve had the meetings and we’ve done everything possible to address the concerns, and ideas and opinions that people have brought up," he said. "At some point, there’s a political cost to dragging this out as well, and saying let’s just keep letting it go. And I think that’s where, you know, we came to a decision that it had gotten as far as it can go."

After hours of debate on the House floor, voting was expected to start around 3:30pm local time. Instead, the lower chamber took a recess.

The AHCA required 215 votes to pass the House of Representatives and move to the Senate. There are 237 House Republicans, meaning that the party could afford 22 members crossing the aisle and joining the Democrats in opposing the bill. However, the number of renegade Republicans was believed to be anywhere between 24 and 36, according to mainstream media outlets.

"Never say never," but "it certainly looks like" health care is dead for the current Congress, Representative Andy Barr (R-Kentucky) told CNN.

The White House repeatedly said that there was no plan B if the bill failed. Trump has "left everything on the field when it comes to this bill,” Spicer said before the AHCA vote was yanked. “You can’t force someone to vote a certain way.”

He added that Republican leaders had struck a balance between conservative requests and moderates who were worried that cuts were too draconian for their constituents. Sometimes a concession to get two conservative votes might have meant losing 14 moderates and vice versa, Spicer said.

“The American people expressed their support” for the Affordable Care Act, which “became very clear to our colleagues across the aisle,” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) said.