Vote to re­peal Oba­macare put off

De­lay an­nounced af­ter Pres­i­dent Trump fails to close the deal with re­luc­tant House Repub­li­cans.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Erica Werner and Alan Fram

Af­ter seven years of fer­vent prom­ises to re­peal and re­place “Oba­macare,” Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and GOP con­gres­sional lead­ers buck­led at a mo­ment of truth Thurs­day, putting off a planned show­down vote in a sting­ing set­back for the young ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The White House in­sisted the House vote would still hap­pen — Fri­day morn­ing in­stead — but with op­po­si­tion flow­ing from both strongly con­ser­va­tive and mod­er­ate-lean­ing GOP law­mak­ers, that was far from as­sured.

The de­lay was an­nounced af­ter Trump, who ran for pres­i­dent as a master deal-maker, failed to close the deal with a group of fel­low Repub­li­cans in the first ma­jor leg­isla­tive test of his pres­i­dency.

Still, lead­ers of the con­ser­va­tive Free­dom Cau­cus said they were con­tin­u­ing to work with the White House late Thurs­day on their de­mands to limit the re­quire­ments on in­sur­ance com­pa­nies now in place un­der for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s Af­ford­able Care Act.

“I can tell you at this point we are try­ing to get an­other 30 to 40 votes that are now in the ‘no’ cat­e­gory to ‘yes.’ Once we do that I think we can move for­ward,” said Free­dom Cau­cus Chair­man Mark Mead­ows of North Carolina.

The fig­ures quoted by Mead­ows were star­tling since Repub­li­cans can lose only 22 votes in the face of united Democratic op­po­si­tion. A tally by The As­so­ci­ated Press counts at least 31 solid “no” votes.

Mod­er­ate-lean­ing law­mak­ers were bail­ing, too, as the de­mands from con­ser­va­tives pushed them even fur­ther from be­ing able to sup­port the GOP bill. The leg­is­la­tion would elim­i­nate some of the re­quire­ments, taxes and penal­ties from Obama’s health care law, but also would mean mil­lions would lose their health in­sur­ance, older vot­ers would pay higher pre­mi­ums and Med­i­caid cov­er­age would shrink for many low-in­come vot­ers across the coun­try.

GOP lead­ers planned to meet into the night to fig­ure out how to try to re­sus­ci­tate the bill. At the White House, Trump in­sisted just be­fore the de­lay was an­nounced that “we have a great bill and I think we have a very good chance.”

As word trick­led out that the vote was de­layed, one re­porter asked the pres­i­dent for a re­ac­tion, and Trump just shrugged. White House press sec­re­tary Sean Spicer had in­sisted ear­lier that Thurs­day’s vote would hap­pen and the bill would be ap­proved.

There was “no plan B,” the White House said.

The drama un­folded seven years to the day af­ter Obama signed his land­mark law, an an­niver­sary GOP lead­ers meant to cel­e­brate with a vote to undo the di­vi­sive leg­is­la­tion. “Oba­macare” gave birth to the tea party move­ment and helped Repub­li­cans win and keep con­trol of Congress and then take the White House.

In­stead, the an­niver­sary turned into bit­ter irony for the GOP, as C-SPAN filled up the time as the House re­cessed and law­mak­ers ne­go­ti­ated by play­ing footage of Obama sign­ing the Af­ford­able Care Act.

The Repub­li­can leg­is­la­tion would halt Obama’s tax penal­ties against people who don’t buy cov­er­age and cut the fed­eral-state Med­i­caid pro­gram for low earn­ers, which the Obama statute had ex­panded. It would pro­vide tax cred­its to help people pay med­i­cal bills, though gen­er­ally skimpier than Obama’s statute pro­vides. It also would al­low in­sur­ers to charge older Amer­i­cans more and re­peal tax boosts the law im­posed on high-in­come people and health in­dus­try com­pa­nies.

The mea­sure would also block fed­eral pay­ments to Planned Par­ent­hood for a year, an­other stum­bling block for GOP moder­ates.

In a dan­ger sign for Repub­li­cans, a Quin­nip­iac Univer­sity poll found that people dis­ap­prove of the GOP leg­is­la­tion by 56 per­cent to 17 per­cent, with 26 per­cent un­de­cided. Trump’s han­dling of health care was viewed un­fa­vor­ably by 6 in 10.

House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who as speaker was Obama’s crucial lieu­tenant in pass­ing the Democratic bill in the first place, couldn’t resist a dig at the GOP dis­ar­ray.

“You may be a great ne­go­tia­tor,” she said of Trump. “Rookie’s er­ror for bring­ing this up on a day when clearly you’re not ready.”

ALEX BRAN­DON / AP

“We are try­ing to get an­other 30 to 40 votes that are now in the ‘no’ cat­e­gory to ‘yes,’ ” said House Free­dom Cau­cus Chair­man Rep. Mark Mead­ows (cen­ter).

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