Donald Trump’s healthcare bill is pulled off of the House floor, short of votes
Friday - 24/03/2017 20:41
DONALD Trump says he’s “disappointed and surprised” his healthcare bill was pulled, saying Republicans “were very, very close” to getting the controversial bill passed.
Speaking at the White House after Republican leaders abruptly pulled the health care overhaul bill off the House floor to avoid a humiliating defeat for Mr Trump and party leaders, the president blamed Democrats saying: “We had no Democrat support and we couldn’t quite get there. We learnt a lot about loyalty. I think [our next bill] will be even better next time around.”
Mr Trump couldn’t resist a crack at his predecessor’s signature health care law, declaring, “I’ve been saying for the past year we should let ObamaCare explode and it’s exploding right now.
“ObamaCare will implode — it’s going to have a very bad year,” he continued.
“I think the losers are Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer because now they own ObamaCare — they own it.”
Mr Trump on Friday asked House Speaker Paul Ryan to withdraw the embattled bill, moments before a vote, signalling a major political defeat for the US president.
“The speaker talked to the president at three o’clock today (6AM AEDT) and the president asked the speaker to pull the bill,” a leadership aide in the House of Representatives told AFP.
House Speaker Paul Ryan guaranteed a win on the Republican plan to dismantle Barack Obama’s health care law.
Instead, Ryan has suffered a brutal defeat, cancelling a vote on the measure and admitting “we’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future.”
The stinging rebuke is an ominous sign for President Donald Trump’s agenda, from taxes to infrastructure to the budget. Looming in a few weeks is the need to agree on a bill to keep the government open.
It’s also a danger point for the relationship between Mr Trump and Mr Ryan, who had an awkward pairing during the campaign but worked in tandem on the GOP health measure.
Virtually every Washington Republican won election promising to repeal ObamaCare.
With a Republican president, passage seemed almost certain.
Speaking at a press conference soon after the bill was pulled, Mr Ryan said: “We’re feeling growing pains today. This is a disappointing day for all of us. This is a setback, no two ways about it.”
“We came really close,” Mr Ryan added. “Doing big things is hard.”
Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi lauded the defeat, saying, “Today is a great day for our country. This is a victory for the American people.”
Mr Trump had put his reputation as a deal-maker on the line with the high-risk vote, even as Republican rebels threatened to torpedo their own party’s attempt to repeal and replace Barack Obama’s signature health law.
Just a day earlier, Mr Trump had demanded a House vote and said if the measure lost, he would move on to other issues.
Earlier in the day, Mr Ryan went to the White House saying he was “not delivering good news,” according to CNN.
The defeat of the disastrous Trump-Ryan health care bill is a major victory for working families and everyone who stood up in opposition.
The New York Post reported that House Republicans needed 216 votes to repeal and replace ObamaCare, but were 25 to 28 short as of Thursday night.
“I’m very disappointed in our team that is not on board,” said New York Republican Chris Collins, Mr Trump’s first supporter in Congress who had been trying to whip up votes for the legislation.
Asked if there are enough votes, Mr Collins said: “I really don’t know.”
“I’m counting on it passing. But I can tell you right now there’s bitterness within our conference that will take time to heal that, even if it does pass,” he said. “Too many people on our team feel like we have team members that are deserting us.”
However, it appears a group of moderate Republicans are refusing to budge on their vote.
WHERE ARE THE WOMEN?
It came after a photo tweeted by Vice President Mike Pence attracted attention for all the wrong reasons.
Mr Pence tweeted the photo, with the words “appreciated joining @POTUS for meeting with the Freedom Caucus again today This is it. #PassTheBill.”
However, the absence of any women at the table, especially while issues like removing maternity coverage was discussed.
Mr Pence, who later deleted the tweet failed to see anything wrong with the picture above.
However, the image was not lost in the Twittershere, with Democratic Senator Patty Murray the first to respond.
Less than a fifth of Republicans in the House of Representatives are women, but gender representation is not just a Republican problem.
Only 20 per cent of US Congress is female, meaning America ranks alongside Bangladesh in global terms, while other countries like Sweden have 44 per cent of female elected representatives.
It isn’t the first time the Trump Administration has been criticised for having only men make a decision that involves women.
In January, Mr Trump signed an anti-abortion executive order surrounded only by other white men.
It prohibits giving US funding to international nongovernmental organisations that offer or advise on a wide range of family planning and reproductive health options if they include abortion ― even if US dollars are not specifically used for abortion-related services.
It comes as Mr Trump issued an ultimatum to US Congress — pass the Republican heath care bill today or he will leave Obamacare as it is and work on other issues, sources said.
According to the New York Post, Mr Trump’s stern demand came after a chaotic day on Capitol Hill, in which Republican leaders were forced to postpone a vote on their ObamaCare replacement plan until Friday for fear it did not have the support to pass.
As it became clear the signature proposal was in danger, Mr Trump doubled down by telling Congress that the time for negotiation over.
“The president said tomorrow there will be a vote,” Republican Chris Collins told the New York Post.
“It’s a vote to maintain ObamaCare or it’s a vote to get rid of Obamacare,” Mr Collins said. “If he can’t get the votes tomorrow he’ll never get the votes, so it’s time to move on.”
Mr Trump, who personally courted legislators at the White House early on Thursday, sent the my-way-or-the-highway message to the Capitol through his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, who addressed House Republicans during a hastily called meeting in the Capitol basement.
“Mick Mulvaney was very direct in saying, we’re done negotiating,” Mr Collins said.
Putting pressure on Republicans, Mr Trump said this will be their one shot to get it done, or else he’ll turn his focus to tax reform and immigration.
“This is the only train leaving the station,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer told Fox News.
The White House had already offered concessions aimed at winning support from leery conservative Republicans, including ending rules that all policies had to carry “essential benefits” for thing such as hospitalisation and pregnancy.
Despite the sweetened deal, House Speaker Paul Ryan decided in the afternoon to cancel the evening vote on the bill, which had ceremoniously been scheduled for the seventh anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
The bill would have gone down in defeat with enough “no” votes from conservative Freedom Caucus members, who feel the bill is Obamacare Lite, and from moderates who fear that too many of their constituents will lose coverage.
It’s still unclear whether the bill will have the votes to pass on Friday.
Moderate Republicans like Dan Donovan remain a “no” vote, and an updated Congressional Budget Office score will do little to sway those on the fence.
The Republican health care plan will save less money — US$150 billion (A$196 billion) compared to US$337 billion ($440 billion) over 10 years in the original version — and still mean 24 million fewer Americans will be uninsured by 2026, the CBO found.
But conservative holdouts lauded the concessions to undo some of ObamaCare’s insurance mandates. Arizona Congressman Trent Franks, a member of the Freedom Caucus, wasn’t ready to commit to a “yes” vote but told the New York Post he was “profoundly encouraged” by the improvements to help drive down premiums.
Other conservatives were peeved by the hasty negotiations.
Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie said his vote went from a “no” to a “hell no.”
Friday’s vote sets up the first major test of whether Mr Trump’s famed deal making skills can work on an unruly Congress.
After the meeting with Mr Mulvaney, the consequences of letting down the president weighed on members.
“It’s not a perfect bill, [but] it’s better than what we’ve got,” Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher told the New York Post. “And if we vote it down, we’ll neuter Donald Trump’s presidency.”
TRUMP SAYS PIPELINE WILL BRING JOBS
Meanwhile, Mr Trump says “it’s a great day for American jobs” after his administration issued a permit to build the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline.
The decision marks a reversal from the Obama administration and clears the way for the US$8 billion (A$10 billion) project to be completed.
The president says the decision ushers in a “new era” of American energy policy and will reduce US dependence on foreign oil.
The decision caps a years-long fight between environmental groups and energy industry advocates over the pipeline’s fate.
It’s one of several steps the administration is expected to take in the coming weeks to prioritise economic development over environmental concerns.
Mr Trump also turned his attention to the pending health care bill saying, “we’ll see what happens,” in response to a question about what happens if the vote on the Republican-backed health care bill fails in the House.
Mr Trump was offering his support for House Speaker Paul Ryan at a White House event announcing the presidential permit about the Keystone XL pipeline.
Asked if Mr Ryan should remain as speaker if the bill fails, Mr Trump said, “Yes.”