© Reuters. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi speaks during the House Democrats press conference
By David Lawder and Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump suffered a surprising political setback on Friday in a Congress controlled by his own party when Republican leaders withdrew legislation to reform the United States’ healthcare system, a major promise of the 2016 election campaign of the president and his allies.
House leaders withdrew the bill after a rebellion by moderate Republicans and the party’s more conservative lawmakers left them without votes, ensuring that Trump’s first major legislative initiative since taking office on January 20 ended in failure. Democrats rallied against him.
House Republicans had planned a vote on the measure after Trump broke off negotiations with Republicans who had refused the plan on Thursday and issued an ultimatum to vote Friday, win or lose. But desperate lobbying from the White House and House Republican Speaker Paul Ryan failed to muster the 216 votes needed for passage.
“We learned a lot about loyalty. We learned a lot about the voting process,” Trump told reporters at the White House, though he tried to blame the Democrats even though his party controls the White House, the House. and the Senate.
With the legislative collapse on Friday, former Democratic President Barack Obama‘s signature national policy achievement, the Affordable Care Act of 2010, known as Obamacare, remains in effect despite seven years of Republican promises to dismantle it.
The health care failure called into question not only Trump’s ability to get other key parts of his agenda, including tax cuts and an increase in infrastructure spending, through Congress, but also the ability of the Republican Party. to govern effectively.
Neither Trump nor Ryan indicated plans to try to tackle health legislation again anytime soon. Trump said he would focus his attention on achieving “big tax cuts” in Congress, another delicate proposal.
Republican supporters said the legislation would achieve its goal of rolling back the government’s “nanny state” role in health care. The White House made undoing Obamacare its top priority when Trump took office two months ago.
Amid a chaotic fight for votes, Ryan, who defended the bill, met with Trump at the White House. Ryan said he recommended that he step off the House floor because he didn’t have the votes to pass it, and Trump agreed.
“We were probably 10-15 votes short,” Trump said. “Without the support of the Democrats, we couldn’t get there.”
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said the bill failed “because of two traits that have plagued Trump’s presidency since he took office: incompetence and broken promises.”
Democrats said the bill would strip millions of Americans from health insurance and leave America’s more than $ 3 trillion health care system in disarray.
And some moderate Republicans opposed the bill out of concern that millions of Americans would be harmed.
“There were things in this bill that I didn’t particularly like,” Trump added, without specifying what they were, but expressed confidence in Ryan’s leadership.
“Perhaps the best that could happen is exactly what happened today, because we will end up with a big healthcare bill in the future after this disaster known as Obamacare breaks out,” said Trump, who had posted several tweets throughout. March proclaiming that “Obamacare is imploding” and repeatedly saying that Republicans were rallying to pass the bill.
Friday’s events cast doubt on whether Ryan can get Republican lawmakers to pass important legislation.
“I will not sugarcoat this. This is a disappointing day for us. Doing great things is difficult,” Ryan said at a news conference, adding that his fellow Republicans are experiencing what he called “growing pains” from passing a game. opposition to a ruling party.
“Obamacare is the law of the land,” Ryan added. “We are going to live with Obamacare for the foreseeable future.”
“A LITTLE SURPRISED”
The members of the Freedom Caucus, the most conservative members of the House, were instrumental in the failure of the bill, opposing it among other reasons because they considered parts too similar to Obamacare.
Trump said he was disappointed and “a little surprised” with the opposition from the Freedom Caucus.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said that under Republican law, 14 million people would lose health coverage by next year and more than 24 million would be uninsured by 2026.
News that the bill had been withdrawn before a final vote was initially greeted with a small sigh of relief from US equity investors, who earlier in the week had been concerned that outright defeat would damage stocks. other Trump priorities, like tax cuts and infrastructure spending. .
Benchmark US stock market indices ended the session mixed after recovering from session lows following the news. The end was fractionally lower, the blue chip fell about 0.3 percent and the index was up about 0.2 percent.
Shares of hospital operators ended strongly higher, with the S&P Healthcare Facilities Index climbing 2.7 percent, while the S&P 500 healthcare sector was down 0.03 percent. The dollar strengthened modestly on the news, and US Treasury yields rose from session lows.
Trump said he would be “totally open” to working with the Democrats on health care “when they all get civilized.” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said that working to reduce prescription drug prices is an area of possible cooperation with Republicans.
Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher said before the bill was withdrawn that rejecting it would “emasculate Trump” and empower his opponents.
“You don’t cut the balls off a bull and then hope he can go out and do the job,” Rohrabacher told Reuters. “This will emasculate Trump and we can’t do that … If we take this down now, Trump will have lost all his leverage to pass whatever bill it is, be it the tax bill or whatever reform he wants.” “
Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, when asked why his fellow Republicans were so united for the past seven years to ditch Obamacare only to fall apart when they actually do something about it, said: “Sometimes you play fantasy football and other times in the real game “.
Obamacare boosted the number of Americans with health insurance through individual and employer mandates and income-based subsidies. Approximately 20 million Americans obtained insurance coverage through the law.
The House plan would have rescinded a series of taxes created by Obamacare, ended a penalty for people who refuse to obtain health insurance, and ended Obamacare income-based subsidies to help people to buy insurance while creating less generous age tax credits
It would also end Obamacare’s expansion of the state-federal Medicaid insurance program for the poor, cut future federal Medicaid funding and allow states to impose work requirements on some Medicaid recipients.
House leaders agreed to a series of last-minute changes to try to win over disgruntled conservatives, including ending Obamacare’s requirement that insurers cover certain “essential benefits” like maternity care, mental health services and coverage. of prescription drugs.
Click the links below to see related charts:
Graphic on Obamacare and the Republican Healthcare Bill (http://tmsnrt.rs/2n0ZMKf)
Chart from Survey of Americans’ Views of the Republican Healthcare Bill (http://tmsnrt.rs/2n7f3e4)