House Withdraws Health Care Overhaul Bill

UPDATED 03/25/17 12:20 a.m.

WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — House Republicans abruptly withdrew their plan to repeal and replace Obamacare Friday afternoon, and the Affordable Care Act will remain in place for the foreseeable future — possibly until the next Congress in two years.

But President Donald Trump is now predicting Obamacare will fail, and will force Democrats to work with him to change the law.

Despite Trump’s previous demand that House lawmakers take a vote, the American Health Care Act could not get the support to pass.

Speaking from the White House, the president said the votes were “very close.”

“We were just probably anywhere from 10 to 15 votes short,” Trump said.

He then blamed a lack of bipartisan backing, namely from the Democrats.

“We had no votes from the Democrats. They weren’t going to give us a single vote, so it’s a very difficult thing to do,” he said. “When they all become civilized and get together, and try and work out a great health care bill for the people of this country, we’re open to it.”

However, as CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported, it was a Republican rift that killed the bill. Moderates and conservatives couldn’t reach a consensus over scaling back Medicaid, reducing mandate coverage, and whether the plan actually reduced premiums.

“Quite frankly, the reason that they lost is because of the actions they took, or did not take, but it’s also because the American people weighed in,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said.

Trump admitted he’s “disappointed” one of his signature campaign promises will not be fulfilled, at least not right now.

“I worked as a team player and would have loved to have seen it pass,” he said. “Perhaps the best thing that could happen is exactly what happened today. Because we’ll end up with a truly great health care bill in the future after this mess known as Obamacare explodes.”

He predicted the current system will collapse, and Democrats will soon be willing to negotiate.

Iona College political science professor Jeanne Zaino called it “a stunning defeat for the Republicans,” saying Trump and Ryan are learning the difficulty of being the party in power, CBS2’s Brian Conybeare reported. She thinks this early loss could harm other Trump priorities moving forward.

“Now he’s going to take on the very tough issue of tax reform, the very tough issue of immigration reform potentially, maybe infrastructure, which is going to be harder for him to sell to Republicans than Democrats,” she said. “All of those things are again going to cost him political capital that he’s already spent on this health care push.”

Trump said he still supports Ryan and that as president he “learned a lot about loyalty” and the challenge of getting legislation approved in a bitterly divided Washington.

House Speaker Paul Ryan also held a news conference Friday evening, citing the “growing pains” of a longtime opposition party.

He said he advised the president that pulling the bill would be the best course of action.

“We came really close today, but we came up short,” he said. “I will not sugarcoat this — this is a disappointing day for us. Doing big things is hard.”

“All of us, myself included, we will need time to reflect on how we got to this moment, what we could have done to do it better,” he continued.

Ryan also told reporters Obamacare will remain in place until a new measure is put forward.

“Obamacare is the law of the land. It’s going to remain the law of the land until it’s replaced. We did not have quite the votes to replace this law,” he said. “So yeah, we’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future. I don’t know how long it’s going to take us to replace this law.”

Following the announcement, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a statement, which read in part, “This bill appears to be on life support for now – it should be killed once and for all.”

“Republicans leadership may have counted on the complexity of the issue to confuse the debate, but at the end of the day it’s actually quite simple. This Congress tried to play the people of this nation for a fool – they were wrong, and they lost,” the governor said.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio echoed that sentiment in a statement, which read in part, “While the fight is far from over, Obamacare repeal efforts are now on life support as the law continues to keep Americans alive.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Bob Mendez, D-NY, shared some choice words:

The sudden about-face came after four hours of debate on the House floor.

When the day started, New York and New Jersey Republicans were evenly divided, with six ready to vote “yes,” six ready to vote “no,” and Long Island’s Peter King and Upstate’s Elise Stefanik officially “undecided.”

“The American Health Care Act is a monumental step towards freedom, choice and individual responsibility in health care,” said Rep. Chris Collins, R-NY.

“Will this bill improve Medicaid? Nope! Will the bill increase the number of Americans with health coverage? Nope! Will it lower costs on the exchanges? Nope!” said Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-NJ.

Earlier in the day, Vice President Mike Pence met near the Capitol with recalcitrant members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus in a last-ditch effort to secure support.

Many members said they don’t want to vote on a bill that isn’t going anywhere, because it could be used against them politically and they get nothing positive out of it, CBS News’ Chip Reid reported.

Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., told reporters, “As of right now, I’m not sure that we are across the finish line. We’ve still got three or four hours and there’s still discussions happening.”

The man behind “The Art of the Deal” couldn’t seal the deal, Aeillo reported, but the White House said it wasn’t for a lack of trying. 

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said during his daily briefing Friday that  “at this point it’s not a question of negotiating anymore it’s understanding the greater good that’s at hand. There’s not question in my mind at least that the president and the team here have left everything on the field.”

Earlier Friday, Republicans pushed the GOP health care overhaul past an initial procedural hurdle in the House.

[graphiq id=”dlXqGgWyU97″ title=”Republican Lawmakers Expressing Concern With the AHCA” width=”600″ height=”638″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/dlXqGgWyU97″ link=”https://www.graphiq.com/vlp/dlXqGgWyU97″ link_text=”InsideGov | Graphiq” ]

The early vote inserted changes into the measure that leaders hoped would win over unhappy Republicans. It would improve Medicaid benefits for some older and handicapped people and abolish coverage requirements President Barack Obama’s 2010 law imposes on insurers.

The president has threatened to leave “Obamacare” in place and move on to other issues if the House vote on the Republican replacement plan fails on Friday.

Ahead of a make-or-break vote, Trump called the GOP proposal “a great plan,” tweeting Friday that, “after seven horrible years of ObamaCare (skyrocketing premiums & deductibles, bad healthcare), this is finally your chance for a great plan!”

In a second tweet, Trump told lawmakers who oppose abortion that a vote against the health care bill would favor Planned Parenthood.

“The irony is that the Freedom Caucus, which is very pro-life and against Planned Parenthood, allows P.P. to continue if they stop this plan!” he said.

In a bid to coax support from conservatives, House leaders had proposed a fresh amendment repealing Obama’s requirement that insurers cover 10 specified services like maternity, prescription drugs and mental health care.

Conservatives have demanded the removal of those and other conditions the law imposes on insurers, arguing they drive up premiums.

“Essential benefits are not being done away with,” Rep. Peter Sessions (R-Texas) said. “They’re being transferred entirely to states. States have asked for the ability to manage their own money and manage their own people’s benefits.”

At a Capitol meeting late Thursday, top White House officials told GOP lawmakers that Trump had decided the time for talk was over.

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“For seven and a half years we have been promising the American people that we will repeal and replace this broken law because it’s collapsing and it’s failing families,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said.

In an embarrassing setback hours earlier, party leaders abruptly postponed the vote because a rebellion by both conservatives and moderates would have doomed it.

The House went back into session Thursday night as some members made last-minute pleas. Behind closed doors, the negotiations are said to have included an added series of amendments in hopes of making it more appealing to moderate and conservative Republicans.

But the bill had been a tough sell for some Republicans holdouts.

“I thought the bill misses the mark and that’s why I’ve taken the position I’ve taken,” Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent said.

Staten Island Congressman Dan Donovan told CNN that seniors would suffer and taxes could go up because of last-minute Medicaid cuts.

“There’s no reason to rush through it,” he said. “I would rather get it right than get it done fast.”

Once the bill was killed, Donovan released a statement, reading, “The votes weren’t there on this one, but Speaker Ryan remains a courageous leader. It’s a privilege to serve in Congress with him at the helm, and I look forward to working with him on future components of the Republican agenda.”

[graphiq id=”icHOF8I3KHr” title=”Republican Lawmakers’ Responses to the AHCA” width=”600″ height=”597″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/icHOF8I3KHr” link=”https://www.graphiq.com/vlp/icHOF8I3KHr” link_text=”InsideGov | Graphiq” ]

New Jersey Republican Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, who chairs the U.S. House appropriations committee, said the health overhaul bill is “unacceptable.”

Frelinghuysen said that he wants to support legislation to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, but that the legislation would place “significant new costs and barriers to care” on his constituents.

He joins three other Republicans from New Jersey opposed to the health care overhaul bill. Reps. Frank LoBiondo, Leonard Lance and Chris Smith say they plan to vote no.

“On the bill that we are debating today and voting on today, I am a no,” Lance said. “I don’t think this will lower insurance premiums.”

LoBiondo on Twitter reiterated that he will vote no on the measure and says he “won’t be arm-twisted” to support it and asked people to stop “calling hourly.”

He said that changes made by GOP leadership Thursday night strengthened his no vote and that changes to the essential benefit section would be a big issue for his southern New Jersey district.

A spokeswoman for the other Republican in the state’s delegation, Rep. Tom MacArthur, says he still plans to vote yes.

There was no evidence that leaders had nailed down sufficient support to prevail. But they seemed to be calculating that Republicans would not want to deal Trump a crushing defeat.

“Rookie’s error, Donald Trump,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said. “You may be a great negotiator — rookie’s error for bringing this up on a day when clearly you’re not ready.”

No Democrats are expected to vote for the bill, so Republicans cannot lose more than about 22 votes from their own members if they expect it to pass.

“This thing has been a mess from beginning to end,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass). “Now I know our president prides himself on his negotiating skills, but this seems like ‘the art of no deal’ to me.”

One of the architects of the Republican plan offered reassurance, saying whatever clears the House is subject to change, CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported.

“Well it leaves you with the opportunity for the Senate to modify it and change it as they see fit,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. “If there are significant changes, it goes to a conference committee. This is the legislative process.”

The original vote was scheduled to take place on the seven year anniversary of President Barack Obama signing the Affordable Care Act.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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