The decision to cancel a vote to repeal major chunks of the Affordable Care Act was a humbling moment for President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Their failure to repeal the law on Friday came on the heels of an intra-party revolt between conservatives and moderates, laying bare deep divisions in the GOP despite its control of Washington. Republicans seized the White House and both chambers of Congress on the core promise of repealing the controversial healthcare law, and proved unable to deliver.
"We were very, very close,” said Trump said in the Oval Office, expressing dismay that conservative members of his party bucked the bill. He claimed he was 10 to 15 votes short, although in an earlier interview with the Washington Post he said the number was five to 12.
For Ryan, a policy wonk who made repealing Obamacare his top priority, it was the starkest failure of his leadership ability. For Trump it was a an even more sobering moment. He has built his political identity on his deal-making prowess, and the defeat of his inaugural legislative priority cast his entire agenda into doubt.
“Being against things is easy to do: You just have to be against it,” Ryan said in a rebuke of his own members.
Republican officials on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue were quick to blame the House Freedom Caucus, the conservative bloc of about three-dozen lawmakers whom Trump and House leadership courted for weeks but who ultimately refused to get behind the legislation. White House officials and Ryan offered amendment after amendment designed to win the group over, “but they couldn’t get to yes,” said one Administration official.
“There is a bloc of ‘no’ votes that we had that is why this didn’t pass,” said Ryan. “Some of the members of that caucus were voting with us, but not enough were.”
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