In a day where they had hoped to declare a victory in their plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare,” the Trump administration blinked as House leaders put on hold a vote to overhaul nationwide health care, the signature policy from the Obama presidency.
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.
“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 North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, chariman of the conservative Freedom Caucus.
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, President Trump insisted just before the delay was announced that “we have a great bill and I think we have a very good chance.”
But Republican legislators were dissatisfied with the bill and said they wanted something that would be better than what the previous White House had offered on health care.
“In the final analysis, this bill falls short,” GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state said in a statement Thursday as she became the latest rank-and-file Republican, normally loyal to leadership, to declare her opposition. “The difficulties this bill would create for millions of children were left unaddressed,” she said, citing the unraveling of Medicaid.
Also, moderates were given pause by projections of 24 million Americans losing coverage in a decade and higher out-of-pocket costs for many low-income and older people, as predicted by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. And, House members were mindful that the bill, even if passed by the House, faces a tough climb in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made clear it will need to change to win the support needed to pass.
The breakdown took place on the seventh anniversary of former President Obama’s signing of the ACA. In a statement, he said that “America is stronger” because of the current law and said Democrats must make sure “any changes will make our health care system better, not worse for hardworking Americans.”
With reporting by the Associated Press