When Republicans had to call off the vote on the American Health Care Act in March, President Trump dismissed the failure, saying, “I never said I was going to repeal and replace in the first 61 days.”
As the Washington Post reported, he was wrong on two counts: He’d been in office for 64 days, and he repeatedly promised to repeal and replace Obamacare “immediately” or “on day one,” even if he had to call a special session of Congress.
The White House kept holding negotiations with House Republicans, and this week there was a major breakthrough. Leaders of the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus — which tanked the original AHCA vote — and the moderate Tuesday Group reached a compromise. An amendment to the original bill would let states opt out of Obamacare’s essential health benefits and other regulations, allowing insurers to charge people with preexisting conditions far more. Finally, most (but not all) members of the Freedom Caucus were onboard. But there was still one problem: making AHCA even worse for the poor, sick, and elderly alienated many moderate Republicans.
Nevertheless, Republicans said they may vote to gut Obamacare this week, giving the president a huge legislative win by the end of his first 100 days in office. According to the New York Times, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus had “pushed aggressively” for the House to schedule the vote.
But following a 90-minute meeting in House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office on Thursday night, Republicans announced that they still can’t find a way to pass the health-care overhaul they’ve been promising for seven years. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said there would be no vote on Friday, and denied that GOP leaders had ever wanted to vote this week.
“We’re still educating members,” McCarthy said. “We’ve been making great progress. As soon as we have the votes, we’ll vote on it.”
The Speaker can only afford 22 GOP defections, and according to Politico, he still doesn’t have the votes: “At least 15 House Republicans remain solidly opposed to the bill, with another 20 leaning no or still undecided, according to GOP lawmakers and aides.”
The lack of progress on the health-care bill does have a silver lining for the GOP. Democrats had threatened to force a shutdown if Republicans tried to hold a health-care vote this week, but now it looks like Congress will pass a weeklong spending bill before the midnight Friday deadline, giving themselves time to negotiate a deal to keep the government funded through September.
However, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi suggested that even if Republicans had voted on the wildly unpopular health-care legislation, the outcome wouldn’t have be pretty.
“If they vote on it, the minute they cast that vote, they put doo-doo on their shoe,” she said.