ST. GEORGE – A bill meant to fulfill congressional Republican’s long-standing promise to replace and repeal the Affordable Care Act, often called “Obamacare,” was pulled by President Donald Trump and GOP leaders Friday when it became apparent the bill would not survive the House floor.
Democrats said Americans can “breathe a sigh of relief.”
Trump said Obama’s law was imploding “and soon will explode.”
Thwarted by two factions of fellow Republicans, from the center and far right, House Speaker Paul Ryan said President Barack Obama’s health care law, the GOP’s No. 1 target in the new Trump administration, will remain in place “for the foreseeable future.”
It was a stunning defeat for the new president after he had demanded House Republicans delay no longer and vote on the legislation Friday, pass or fail.
The bill was withdrawn just minutes before the House vote was to occur, and lawmakers said there were no plans to revisit the issue.
Republicans will try to move ahead on other agenda items, including overhauling the tax code, though the failure on the health bill can only make whatever comes next immeasurably harder.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, praised Speaker Paul Ryan’s efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act in a statement Friday while also outlining pending GOP priorities.
“I commend Speaker Ryan’s efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare,” Hatch said. “Moving forward, we will continue to look for ways to protect American families from the law’s harmful provisions while also pursuing opportunities to improve the health of the economy through pro-growth initiatives such as tax reform and implementing a strong trade agenda.”
Hatch’s counterpart, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, was happy to see the bill pulled. He and other like-minded senators voiced their opposition to the bill the same day it was rolled out earlier this month.
“The decision to pull the bill was a sound commonsense one. We can now begin the hard and necessary process to get this right,” Lee said. “…The reality is that the current House bill was not ready for the House floor and certainly not ready for the Senate. We need an open, transparent, and deliberate process. The stakes for all Americans are simply too high.”
Trump pinned the blame on Democrats.
“With no Democrat support we couldn’t quite get there,” he told reporters in the Oval Office. “We learned about loyalty, we learned a lot about the vote-getting process.”
The Obama law was approved in 2010 with no Republican votes.
“We worked very hard to bring the American people better healthcare options and I’m very disappointed in this outcome,” Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, said in a statement Friday.
Stewart spoke to St. George News Thursday night and said that if the bill failed the next day, he wasn’t sure how the new presidency will be able to moves ahead.
“President Trump has made it clear over and over again this last week that he is satisfied with where the bill is now and a vote against this is a vote against Trump frankly,” Stewart said Thursday.
“If this fails … I don’t know how the Trump presidency moves forward. So we cannot hand our president a defeat on this, we just can’t. And besides this bill will help people,” He said. “It’s so much better than Obamacare and we have a responsibility to help these people if we can and this is what that bill does.”
As has been reported, the next day did not prove kind to the potential Obamacare replacement.
“We worked very hard to bring the American people better healthcare options and I’m very disappointed in this outcome,” Stewart said in a statement Friday.
Other members of Utah’s Congressional delegation were also disappointed by Friday’s outcome.
“Obamacare is in a death spiral and desperately needs to be repealed,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz said. “Unfortunately, today we couldn’t come to a consensus on what that plan should look like. But we need to get there. The status quo is not sustainable. People still need access to affordable healthcare that Obamacare does not provide.”
Rep. Mia Love said the opportunity to provide the American people with better health care “has passed.”
“I worked with the President and the House leadership to make the bill the best it could be for Utah families and small business,” Love said Friday. “This was a great opportunity to offer Utahns access to better healthcare alternatives, lower premiums, to remove federal red tape and give states flexibility to design the programs for our residents. I will continue to work to ensure Americans have the best healthcare available another way.”
The GOP bill would have eliminated the Obama statute’s unpopular fines on people who do not obtain coverage and would also have removed the subsidies for those who purchase insurance.
Republican tax credits would have been based on age, not income like Obama’s, and the tax boosts Obama imposed on higher-earning people and health care companies would have been repealed.
The bill would have ended Obama’s Medicaid expansion and trimmed future federal financing for the federal-state program, letting states impose work requirements on some of the 70 million beneficiaries.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the Republican bill would have resulted in 24 million additional uninsured people in a decade and lead to higher out-of-pocket medical costs for many lower-income and people just shy of age 65 when they would become eligible for Medicare.
The bill would have also blocked federal payments for a year to Planned Parenthood.
Cedar City News reporter Tracie Sullivan and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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