Republicans Kill Health Care Vote As GOP Members Defect

March 24, 2017
House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. leaves the White House in Washington Friday after meeting with President Donald Trump.

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. leaves the White House in Washington Friday after meeting with President Donald Trump.

Evan Vucci/AP

House Republicans have scrapped a vote on their health care replacement plan after defections from both the right and center that made it clear the bill would not pass. NPR's Susan Davis reports that GOP leadership says the Friday afternoon vote is now scrapped after House Speaker Paul Ryan made a last-minute trip to the White House to tell President Trump that the votes weren't there to pass their replacement plan, the American Health Care Act. Trump agreed with Ryan's plan to halt the vote.

The near-certain defeat of the bill saves the GOP — for now — from a devastating and embarrassing blow. The party has vowed repeatedly over the past eight years that it would repeal and replace Obamacare. Still, the inability to reach consensus on a bill, given its control of the House, Senate and White House, badly hurts its image as a party that can govern.

The risks were high for President Trump as well on the bill. He has hyped a brand of someone able to strike the best deals. Being unable to get this through, after giving an ultimatum to congressional Republicans Thursday, will raise questions about just how good a deal-maker he is.

The legislative stalemate endangers Trump's and the GOP's agenda and casts a cloud over the legislative path forward after an election waged almost entirely as the antithesis to a progressive agenda enacted by former President Barack Obama, Trump's predecessor.

Vice President Pence, who canceled a trip out of Washington, had hoped to make one last sale in a meeting with the roughly 40-member, hard-line conservative Freedom Caucus, which had refused to budge from its ideological objections to the bill.

In an attempt to win the caucus over, an amendment was added to the bill late Wednesday night, cutting essential health benefits, 10 types of medical care that insurance companies are required to cover. The Freedom Caucus wants to see premiums come down and believes cutting benefits is the way to do that.

But that also had an effect on moderates. For example, Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., who represents a swing district in the D.C. suburbs, said she wouldn't back the bill, joining more moderate Republicans who are top 2018 Democratic targets who don't want to take a tough vote that might come back to bite them during the midterms.

Rep. David Joyce, R-Ohio, another centrist Republican, announced he wouldn't support the bill either, saying in a statement that the GOP's replacement plan was no better than Obamacare.

And House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., also broke ranks with GOP leadership on Friday, announcing that he was a no vote. His reasoning: The current bill adds too many new costs and barriers, along with taking away benefits requirements.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer had maintained at his daily briefing that a vote was still slated for this afternoon. He said Trump had "left everything on the field" to try to woo Republican members, having contacted over 120 members. But his tone and tense were notable.

Spicer wouldn't concede that the bill might fail, but did admit that "at the end of the day, you can't force somebody to do something."

He added, "At the end of the day, this isn't a dictatorship."

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois issued a statement Friday afternoon.

"Republicans have spent seven years posturing and misleading the public about the Affordable Care Act,' he said. "Today, their frantic attempt to ram through a half-baked bill repealing health care for millions of Americans fell flat. Republicans must put repeal behind them now and work with Democrats to improve—not destroy—America’s health care system."

15th District Republican Congressman John Shimkus of Collinsville also sent a statement, citing the more than 60 votes he's cast to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

“As we all saw this week, moving bills through the legislative process is hard. But that’s a feature, not a flaw, of our constitutional republic," he said. "While I’m disappointed in today’s outcome, my commitment to my constituents to follow through on the promise I made to provide relief from Obamacare is as strong as ever.”

Story source: NPR