The Daily Telegraph

President pulls plug on his bill to repeal Obamacare

Bitter defeat for Trump as Democrats and Republican rebels force him to back down from key pledge

- By Nick Allen in Washington

DONALD TRUMP suffered a bitter defeat last night as his cornerston­e campaign pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare failed to pass in Congress.

Mr Trump instructed that the vote on the “Trumpcare” bill be “pulled” moments before it was due to take place, as support among Republican congressme­n evaporated.

It was a huge blow for the president and raised doubts about his ability to enact other major promises such as tax reform and infrastruc­ture investment.

Mr Trump was said to have been “agitated” by the reluctance of Freedom Caucus members – a group of conservati­ve Republican congressme­n – to vote for the American Health Care Act, known as “Trumpcare”. They did not believe it went far enough in dismantlin­g Obamacare.

Democrats were universall­y against the bill, calling it “pure greed that will see real people suffer and die”.

Sean Spicer, Mr Trump’s spokesman, said: “You can’t force people to vote. At the end of the day this isn’t a dictatorsh­ip. The president left it all on the field. He has given it his all.”

Shortly before the vote Paul Ryan, the Republican House Speaker who championed the bill in Congress, went to the White House to tell Mr Trump it did not have enough support. Mr Trump then called Washington Post journalist Robert Costa. Mr Costa claimed Mr Trump said: “Look, I’m pulling the bill, I just made the decision. That’s life, we move on.”

Mr Costa said Mr Trump was “pretty calm, not angry or ranting, and spoke in an even-tempered voice”. “We’re going to have to come back to healthcare at some point, this year he thinks, but for now it’s over. No vote. It’s pulled,” he quoted the president as saying.

Speaking after the defeat Mr Trump said: “We were very close, we had no Democrat support... The best thing we can do politicall­y speaking is to let Obamacare explode.”

Mr Ryan said: “We came really close today but we came up short. I will not shirk this. This is a disappoint­ing day for us. Doing big things is hard. We will need time to reflect.

“We will be living with Obamacare for the foreseeabl­e future.”

Obamacare, signed into law by Barack Obama seven years ago, was the former president’s signature domestic policy achievemen­t and resulted in an additional 20 million Americans obtaining health insurance.

“Trumpcare” would have eliminated Obamacare’s unpopular fines on those who do not buy health insurance, but would also have removed subsidies for people on low incomes. It would have used tax credits based on age, not income like Obamacare. A recent poll showed only 33 per cent of Americans thought “Trumpcare” would be an “improvemen­t” on Obamacare, while 49 per cent thought it would not be.

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