After weeks of negotiations and last-minute drama, the House GOP has pulled its Obamacare replacement bill after it became clear that there were not enough votes to pass it.
“We came really close today, but we came up short,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, said in a press conference after the bill was pulled.
Around midday on Friday, Ryan rushed over
to the White House to tell President Donald Trump that despite negotiations, there would not be enough votes to pass the American Health Care Act (AHCA), the Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). After lawmakers debated on the floor of the House for hours, the House went into recess subject to the call of the chair.
The vote on AHCA, which had been postponed from its original scheduled date of Thursday, was supposed to start at 3:30 pm on Friday. At the beginning of the day, Trump told
Republicans to vote on the bill Friday or he would leave the ACA intact and move on to other legislation. Pulling the bill now ensures that the ACA will remain for now.
“Obamacare is the law of the land,” Ryan said. “It’s going to remain the law of the land until it’s replaced. We did not have quite the votes to replace this law. So 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. My worry is Obamacare is going to be getting even worse.”
The House Freedom Caucus mostly stood in opposition to the bill, as well as a growing number of other representatives. At last count
, NBC had 34 Republicans and all Democrats in opposition of the bill. GOP leadership could only afford 22 votes against the bill.
“The president understands this is it,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said before the bill was pulled, but after Ryan informed him they didn’t have the votes. “We had this opportunity to change the trajectory in healthcare…”
He added that the White House and GOP leadership did everything they could to address concerns, “but at the end of the day, this isn’t a dictatorship.”
While Ryan made no attempt to hide how disappointing it was that the bill did not pass, he remained optimistic that the work is not over.
“This is a setback no 2 ways about it,” he said. “But it is not the end of the story. Because I know that every man and woman in this Congress is now more motivated to step up our game. To deliver on our promises. I know that everyone is committed to seizing this incredible opportunity that we have.”
Shortly after the bill was pulled, the American Public Health Association celebrated the bill's defeat.
“With this measure off the table, at least for now, American lives have been spared," Georges C. Benjamin, MD, the association's executive director said in a statement. "Millions can keep their health insurance. Medicaid—the nation’s health insurance safety net—remains intact, as does critical public health funding and women’s access to reproductive health services."