Republicans abruptly pulled their health care bill from the House floor on Friday, just minutes ahead of a planned vote, dealing a devastating blow to efforts by President Donald Trump and the GOP to repeal and replace Obamacare.
"This is a disappointing day for us," Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters shortly after the American Health Care Act (AHCA) bill was yanked. "Doing big things is hard. All of us, myself included, will need time to reflect how we got to this moment, what we could have done to do it better."
Ryan said he told Trump around noon the White House that they didn't have the Republican votes needed to pass the AHCA.
"I told him that the best thing I think to do is to pull this bill and he agreed with that decision," Ryan said.
Speaking via phone later at 3:00 p.m. EST, Trump said Democrats in the House — all of whom had planned to vote against the bill — shoulder the blame for the defeat. "Obamacare is exploding," the president said in the Oval Office. "With no Democrat support, we couldn't quite get there. We were just a very small number of votes short in terms of getting our bill passed.”
"I’m disappointed," Trump said, adding, "I'm a little surprised to be honest with you."
The president thanked Republicans in the House, especially Ryan, saying, "I think Paul really worked hard" to get the bill passed.
"We all learned a lot, we learned a lot about loyalty, we learned a lot about the vote-getting process, we learned a lot about arcane rules," Trump said.
Trump predicted that Obamacare would soon "explode" and that its collapse would bring Democrats to the table to negotiate a bipartisan health care bill with him.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she was proud of Democrats for standing in unison against the GOP bill, calling the result "a victory for the American people."
"The unity of our House Democratic members was a very important message to the country that we are very proud of the Affordable Care Act," she told reporters.
But ultimately, it was Republicans who sealed their own fate. The diverse caucus was unable to unify, even on a six-year old campaign pledge that has handed the Republican Party victory in the past three elections.
Leadership attempted to craft a bill to appeal to the most moderate factions of the party as well as the most conservative, but the two sides couldn't come to a compromise. The result was a bill that few liked.
Republicans left a closed-door conference Friday afternoon where they were informed the bill would not be brought to a vote feeling defeated after an exhausting few days.
Rep. Mark Meadows R.-N.C., the chairman and primary spokesman for the Freedom Caucus, which is the conservative group that stood their ground in opposition, said nothing but "no comment." He later put out a statement saying he remains "wholeheartedly committed" to repealing Obamacare.
And the finger pointing began.
When Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican from a swing district in Colorado, was asked where the process went wrong, he said that members who didn’t support the bill "are going to have to go home and explain that."
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Meanwhile, Rep. Justin Amash, R-Michigan, a member of the conservative bloc that Coffman referenced, said that Ryan was “wrong” to offer a "binary" choice of vote for the bill or support Obamacare.
"A true legislative process is where we act as a deliberative body and we try to reflect the will of the American people," Amash said.
"I think we got a group of people that are traditionally a ‘no’ on everything, and they vote as a bloc and you gotta penetrate that block," Coffman said.
The move to halt the vote came after a chaotic week of intense negotiations to convince at least 215 Republicans to support the leadership-written health care bill, but it was ultimately not enough to fulfill a seven-year long pledge to undo the Affordable Care Act, one of Trump's major themes on the campaign trail last year.
The pressure for passage began in earnest earlier in the week when the president traveled to Capitol Hill for the big sell and warned Republicans that they would lose their seats — and the House majority — if they failed to follow through with their campaign pledge.
Trump and Ryan continued to meet with Republicans who were undecided or against the measure throughout the week and twice changed the bill in a bid to attract more support.
But those efforts weren't enough to convince moderate Republicans that it wouldn’t harm people in their districts who have enjoyed expanded Medicaid coverage and financial assistance in purchasing health care. And they weren't enough for the conservative Republicans who thought that the government was too involved in in the health care industry and that it doesn’t do enough to reduce the cost of health insurance premiums.