WASHINGTON - In a stunning defeat for Republicans, House Speaker Paul Ryan on Friday canceled a vote on the GOP bill to replace Obamacare because he did not have enough votes from his own members to pass the legislation.
"We came really close today, but we came up short," Ryan said at a news conference after he pulled the bill from the House floor. "I will not sugarcoat this: This is a disappointing day for us. Doing big things is hard."
Ryan and other Republican leaders said they will now move on from health care to tax reform, Southwest border control and other issues, essentially giving up on their No. 1 legislative priority for the foreseeable future.
"Obamacare is the law of the land," Ryan said. "It’s going to remain the law of the land."
The failure to pass the bill is a major blow to both Ryan and President Trump in their efforts to show what Republicans can accomplish when they control both Congress and the White House.
It also underscored just how divided the Republican Party is, with factions of hardline conservatives and moderates rebelling against their own leadership.
Repealing and replacing Obamacare was a major campaign promise made by Trump and scores of GOP House members and candidates in last year’s election. But they were never able to agree on the best way to achieve their goal.
Trump threw his weight behind the Republicans' replacement bill, cajoling and strong-arming House members to vote for the bill. Ryan also made it his top legislative priority, exhorting members to take action on what he called their best chance to replace Obamacare’s government mandates with a patient-driven system.
Rep. Luke Messer, R-Ind., a member of the House GOP leadership team, declared health care dead for the year. Moreover, he said, it will be harder to get tax reform done now in the wake of the GOP’s failure to pass their health proposal.
"It’s a sad day for America," Messer said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called it "a victory for all Americans."
"Democrats, united by our shared values, have stood strong against the disastrous TrumpCare bill," she said.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the bill failed because Trump couldn't close the deal.
"They can’t write policy that actually makes sense, they can’t implement the policies they do manage to write, they can’t get their stories straight, and today we’ve learned that they can’t close a deal, and they can’t count votes," Schumer said. "So much for the Art of the Deal."
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus that helped kill the bill, said Republicans should not give up on getting rid of the Affordable Care Act. Many members of the caucus said the GOP leadership's American Health Care Act did not go far enough in repealing Obamacare's government mandates.
"Obamacare is a disaster, and repealing it remains one of my top priorities," he said after the vote was cancelled. "The (Republican replacement bill) did not have the support it needed, neither in Congress nor among the American people. Now, House Republicans owe it to our constituents to immediately get back to the drawing board and bring forward a bolder effort to replace the failing Obamacare with a plan to reduce costs by increasing choice and competition."
Contributing: Paul Singer, Nicole Gaudiano, Craig Gilbert, Maureen Groppe
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