Trump, GOP pull health bill

Obama law to con­tinue, Ryan states

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - COM­PILED BY DEMO­CRAT-GAZETTE STAFF FROM WIRE RE­PORTS

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and GOP lead­ers pulled their bill to re­peal the Pa­tient Pro­tec­tion and Af­ford­able Care Act off the House floor Fri­day when it be­came clear that the bill would fail.

Democrats said Amer­i­cans can now “breathe a sigh of re­lief.”

Trump said the cur­rent law is im­plod­ing “and soon will ex­plode.”

Thwarted by two fac­tions of fel­low Repub­li­cans, from the cen­ter and far right, House Speaker Paul Ryan said for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s health care law, the GOP’s No. 1 tar­get in the new Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, will re­main in place “for the fore­see­able fu­ture.”

It was a de­feat for the new pres­i­dent, who had de­manded that House Repub­li­cans de­lay no longer and vote on the leg­is­la­tion Fri­day, pass or fail.

His gam­ble failed. Repub­li­can law­mak­ers re­jected the ul­ti­ma­tum, mak­ing it clear that they an­swer to their con­stituents, not to the pres­i­dent.

Trump said Fri­day at the White House that he “never said re­peal and re­place it in 64 days,” al­though he re­peat­edly claimed dur­ing his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign that Obama’s health care law would go down on Day One of his term. Con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans have spent the past seven years cam­paign­ing to undo the law.

The bill was with­drawn Fri­day just min­utes be­fore

the House vote was to oc­cur, and law­mak­ers said there were no plans to re­visit the is­sue. Repub­li­cans now plan to move ahead on other agenda items, in­clud­ing over­haul­ing the tax code.

In an in­ter­view with The Wash­ing­ton Post, Trump de­flected re­spon­si­bil­ity for the set­back and blamed Democrats.

“We couldn’t get one Demo­cratic vote, and we were a lit­tle bit shy, very lit­tle, but it was still a lit­tle bit shy, so we pulled it,” he said.

“The beauty,” Trump con­tin­ued, “is that they own Oba­macare. So when it ex­plodes they come to us, and we make one beau­ti­ful deal for the peo­ple.”

Democrats, side­lined as Repub­li­cans quar­reled among them­selves, quickly dis­puted Trump’s ac­cu­sa­tions.

“The blame falls with Pres­i­dent Trump and with the Repub­li­cans,” Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a state­ment.

“So much for the art of the deal,” he added.

Trump sep­a­rately told re­porters in the Oval Of­fice, “we learned about loy­alty; we learned a lot about the vote-get­ting process.”

The Af­ford­able Care Act was ap­proved in 2010 with no Repub­li­can votes.

Trump had per­son­ally lob­bied 120 law­mak­ers, ei­ther in per­son or on the phone, White House press sec­re­tary Sean Spicer told re­porters Fri­day.

The pres­i­dent had “left ev­ery­thing on the field,” Spicer said.

The White House does not think that the health care bill’s de­feat will slow other parts of Trump’s agenda, in­clud­ing over­hauls of taxes and im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy, Spicer added.

De­spite re­ports of back­bit­ing from ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials to­ward Ryan, Trump said: “I like Speaker Ryan. … I think Paul re­ally worked hard.”

‘DIS­AP­POINT­ING DAY’

For his part, Ryan told re­porters at the Capi­tol: “We came re­ally close to­day, but we came up short. … This is a dis­ap­point­ing day for us.” He said the pres­i­dent has “re­ally been fan­tas­tic.”

But when asked how Repub­li­cans could face vot­ers af­ter their fail­ure to make good on years of prom­ises, Ryan qui­etly said: “It’s a re­ally good ques­tion. I wish I had a bet­ter an­swer for you.”

Last fall, Repub­li­cans used the is­sue to gain and keep con­trol of the White House, Se­nate and House. Dur­ing the pre­vi­ous years, they had cast dozens of votes to re­peal Obama’s law in full or in part, but when they fi­nally got the chance to vote on a re­peal ver­sion that had a chance to be­come law, they came up short.

“Mov­ing from an op­po­si­tion party to a gov­ern­ing party comes with grow­ing pains. We’re feel­ing those grow­ing pains to­day,” Ryan said.

“This is a dis­ap­point­ing day for us. Do­ing big things is hard,” he said. “All of us, all of us — my­self in­cluded — will need time to re­flect on how we got to this mo­ment.”

Ryan was not able to sway the House Free­dom Cau­cus, the group of con­ser­va­tives that ousted the pre­vi­ous speaker. Those Repub­li­cans wanted the bill to go much fur­ther, while some GOP mod­er­ates felt that the bill went too far.

In­stead of pick­ing up sup­port for the bill as Fri­day wore on, the tide turned the op­po­si­tion di­rec­tion, with sev­eral key law­mak­ers voic­ing their op­po­si­tion to it.

Democrats could hardly con­tain their sat­is­fac­tion.

“To­day is a great day for our coun­try, what hap­pened on the floor is a vic­tory for the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” said House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi, who as speaker had helped Obama pass the Af­ford­able Care Act. “Let’s just for a mo­ment breathe a sigh of re­lief for the Amer­i­can peo­ple.”

Repub­li­cans had not built a con­stituency for the leg­is­la­tion, and the nearly uni­form op­po­si­tion from hos­pi­tals, doc­tors, nurses, the AARP, con­sumer groups and oth­ers weighed heav­ily with law­mak­ers. And con­ser­va­tive groups — in­clud­ing the Koch broth­ers, Charles and David — ar­gued that the leg­is­la­tion did not go far enough in up­root­ing the Af­ford­able Care Act.

LATE AP­PEALS FAIL

The pres­sure to pass the bill had been re­lent­less. Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence and Health Sec­re­tary Tom Price rushed to Capi­tol Hill to make last-minute ap­peals to House con­ser­va­tives, but their pleas fell on deaf ears.

In pri­vate, Trump de­manded for much of Thurs­day that Ryan push a vote to pub­licly ex­pose the mem­bers who were op­pos­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Trump and his top strate­gist, Stephen Ban­non, wanted to see a con­fi­den­tial list com­piled to ex­act re­venge on the bill’s Repub­li­can op­po­nents, ac­cord­ing to two peo­ple with di­rect knowl­edge of the sit­u­a­tion.

The crit­i­cal mo­ment — when the par­ties de­cided to with­draw the doomed mea­sure — came dur­ing a 3 p.m. phone call with Ryan and the pres­i­dent, who was in the Oval Of­fice. Ryan told Trump that the scorched-earth strat­egy was mis­guided and self-de­struc­tive.

Ryan, ac­cord­ing to staff mem­bers, agreed that mem­bers of the Free­dom Cau­cus were not ne­go­ti­at­ing in good faith, but he said pun­ish­ing them would also harm law­mak­ers who were sim­ply try­ing

to pro­tect them­selves from po­ten­tial con­ser­va­tive pri­mary chal­lenges next year.

The speaker sealed the deal by telling Trump that a pub­lic vote would turn a bad de­feat into a spec­tac­u­lar loss that could alien­ate con­ser­va­tives whom he would need for up­com­ing votes to raise the debt ceil­ing, pass a bud­get and en­act a re­write of the tax code.

Trump, aides said, was an­noyed, but agreed.

“You can’t pre­tend and say this is a win for us,” said Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., who con­ceded that it was a “good mo­ment” for Democrats.

“Prob­a­bly that cham­pagne that wasn’t popped back in Novem­ber may be uti­lized this evening,” he said.

Fri­day at 3:30 p.m., Ryan called Repub­li­cans into a pri­vate meet­ing to de­liver the news that the bill would be pulled, with no plans to try again. The meet­ing lasted five min­utes. He was greeted by a stand­ing ova­tion in recog­ni­tion of the sup­port he still has from many law­mak­ers.

When the gath­er­ing broke up, Rep. Greg Walden of Ore­gon, chair­man of the En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee that helped write the bill, told re­porters: “We gave it our best shot. That’s it. It’s done. D-ON-E done. This bill is dead.”

“We’re done with health care this year,” said Rep. Bill Flo­res, R-Texas.

Asked what would hap­pen to the Af­ford­able Care Act, Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., said, “It’s the law of the land.”

AP/J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE

“We came re­ally close to­day, but we came up short,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said af­ter pulling the Repub­li­can health care over­haul bill off the House floor.

AP/PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, flanked by Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Tom Price (left) and Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence, speaks Fri­day in the Oval Of­fice about the health care bill.

AP/CLIFF OWEN

House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi, with Rep. Joe Crow­ley, D-N.Y., be­hind her, said Fri­day that “To­day is a great day for our coun­try, what hap­pened on the floor is a vic­tory for the Amer­i­can peo­ple.”

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