GOP's health care over­haul implodes

Lack­ing nec­es­sary votes and see­ing de­fec­tions mount, Ryan pulls bill from floor. Democrats cheer sur­vival of Oba­macare; Trump claims law ‘soon will ex­plode.’

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

In a hu­mil­i­at­ing WASH­ING­TON — fail­ure, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and GOP lead­ers yanked their bill to re­peal “Oba­macare” off the House floor Fri­day when it be­came clear it would fail badly — af­ter seven years of non­stop rail­ing against the health care law. Democrats said Amer­i­cans can “breathe a sigh of re­lief.” Trump said Obama’s law was im­plod­ing “and soon will ex­plode.”

Thwarted by two fac­tions of fel­low Repub­li­cans, from the cen­ter and far right, House Speaker Paul Ryan said 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 stun­ning de­feat for the new pres­i­dent af­ter he had de­manded House Repub­li­cans de­lay no longer and vote on the leg­is­la­tion Fri­day, pass or fail.

His gam­ble failed. In­stead Trump, who cam­paigned as a mas-

ter deal-maker and claimed that he alone could fix the na­tion’s health care sys­tem, saw his ul­ti­ma­tum re­jected by Repub­li­can law­mak­ers who made clear they an­swer to their own vot­ers, not to the pres­i­dent.

He had “never said re­peal and re­place it in 64 days,” a de­jected but still com­bat­ive Trump said at the White House, though he had re­peat­edly shouted dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign that it was go­ing down “im­me­di­ately.”

The bill was with­drawn just min­utes be­fore the House vote was to oc­cur, and law­mak­ers said there were no plans to re­visit the is­sue. Repub­li­cans will try to move ahead on other agenda items, in­clud­ing over­haul­ing the tax code, though the fail­ure on the health bill can only make what­ever comes next im­mea­sur­ably harder.

Trump pinned the blame on Democrats.

“With no Demo­crat sup­port we couldn’t quite get there,” he told re­porters in the Oval Of­fice. “We learned about loy­alty, we learned a lot about the vote-get­ting process.”

The Obama law was ap­proved in 2010 with no Repub­li­can votes.

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

For his part, Ryan told re­porters: “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 pass a re­peal ver­sion that ac­tu­ally had a chance to be­come law, they couldn’t de­liver.

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 her­self helped Obama pass the Af­ford­able Care Act in the first place. “Let’s just for a mo­ment breathe a sigh of re­lief for the Amer­i­can peo­ple.”

The out­come leaves both Ryan and Trump weak­ened po­lit­i­cally.

For the pres­i­dent, this piles a big early con­gres­sional de­feat onto the con­tin­u­ing in­quiries into his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign’s Russia con­nec­tions and his un­founded wire­tap­ping al­le­ga­tions against Obama.

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

In­stead of pick­ing up sup­port as Fri­day wore on, the bill went the other di­rec­tion, with sev­eral key law­mak­ers com­ing out in op­po­si­tion. Rep. Rod­ney Frel­inghuy­sen of New Jer­sey, chair­man of a ma­jor com­mit­tee, Ap­pro­pri­a­tions, said the bill would raise costs un­ac­cept­ably on his con­stituents.

The GOP bill would have elim­i­nated the Obama statute’s un­pop­u­lar fines on peo­ple who do not ob­tain cov­er­age and would also have re­moved the of­ten-gen­er­ous sub­si­dies for those who buy in­sur­ance.

Repub­li­can tax cred­its would have been based on age, not in­come like Obama’s, and the tax boosts Obama im­posed on higher-earn­ing peo­ple and health care com­pa­nies would have been re­pealed.

The bill would have ended Obama’s Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion and trimmed fu­ture fed­eral fi­nanc­ing for the fed­eral-state pro­gram, let­ting states im­pose work re­quire­ments on some of the 70 mil­lion ben­e­fi­cia­ries.

The non­par­ti­san Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice said the Repub­li­can bill would have re­sulted in 24 mil­lion ad­di­tional unin­sured peo­ple in a decade and would lead to higher out-of-pocket med­i­cal costs for many lower-in­come and peo­ple just shy of age 65 when they would be­come el­i­gi­ble for Medi­care. The bill would have blocked fed­eral pay­ments for a year to Planned Par­ent­hood.

Repub­li­cans had never built a con­stituency for the leg­is­la­tion, and in the end the nearly uni­form op­po­si­tion from hos­pi­tals, doc­tors, nurses, the AARP, con­sumer groups and oth­ers weighed heav­ily with many mem­bers. On the other side, con­ser­va­tive groups in­clud­ing the Koch Broth­ers’ Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­ity ar­gued the leg­is­la­tion did not go far enough in up­root­ing Oba­macare.

Ryan made his an­nounce­ment to law­mak­ers at a very brief meet­ing, where he was greeted by a stand­ing ova­tion in recog­ni­tion of the sup­port he still en­joys from many law­mak­ers.

Af­ter­ward, 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-O-N-E done. This bill is dead.”

WIN MCNAMEE / GETTY IM­AGES

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., leaves a news con­fer­ence Fri­day at the Capi­tol in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., af­ter the Repub­li­can health care bill was pulled from the floor be­fore a vote. The GOP was try­ing to re­peal and re­place the Af­ford­able Health Care Act, but lacked the votes.

DREW ANGERER / GETTY IM­AGES

From left: House Mi­nor­ity Whip Steny Hoyer; House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi; U.S. Reps. Eric Swal­well, D-Calif.; Joe Crow­ley, D-N.Y.; and James Cly­burn, D-S.C., hold a news con­fer­ence Fri­day.

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