Republican leaders of the House of Representatives pulled legislation to overhaul the US healthcare system from consideration on Friday, March 24, 2017 due to a shortage of votes, despite desperate lobbying by the White House and its allies in US congress, dealing a stiff setback to US president Donald Trump.
Mr Trump told Republican leaders in the US House of Representatives to cancel the planned vote on Friday on a healthcare bill to dismantle Obamacare, a House Republican aide told Reuters.
The aide said Mr Trump asked US House of Representatives speaker Paul Ryan to pull the bill during a meeting on Friday.
Republican leaders had planned a vote on the measure after Mr Trump cut off negotiations with Republicans who had balked at the plan.
Mr Trump had demanded a vote regardless, which had been scheduled for 8.45pm Irish time. But House Republican leaders were leaning against such a public loss.
It was unclear whether the bill might be rescheduled, although Mr Trump told the Washington Post: “We just pulled it.”
Amid a chaotic scramble for votes, House of Representatives speaker Paul Ryan, who has championed the bill, met with Mr Trump at the White House on Friday before the bill was pulled from the House floor after hours of debate.
Mr Ryan had rushed to the White House to inform Mr Trump that he did not have the votes to pass legislation to repeal and replace the healthcare law known as Obamacare.
Mr Ryan told the president he needed to decide whether to pull the replacement bill from consideration.
The president and the speaker faced the humiliating prospect of a major defeat on legislation which has been promised for seven years, ever since the landmark health legislation was signed into law by Mr Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.
Without the bill’s passage in Congress, Mr Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement, the 2010 Affordable Care Act – known as Obamacare – would remain in place.
Repealing and replacing Obamacare was a top campaign promise by Trump in the 2016 presidential election, as well as by most Republican candidates.
The House had opened debate on Friday on what would have been one of the most consequential pieces of legislation in years, a bill that would have rolled back a major, established social welfare programme, a feat that is almost unheard of.
Mr Trump chimed in from Twitter, declaring: “After seven horrible years of Obamacare (skyrocketing premiums & deductibles, bad healthcare), this is finally your chance for a great plan!”
He took a shot at the hardline House Freedom Caucus, which has pressed for more conservative policies, saying it was ironic “that the Freedom Caucus, which is very pro-life and against Planned Parenthood”, would oppose a bill that strips federal funds from the women’s health provider – albeit for a single year.
However, hardline conservatives showed little sign of capitulation in their opposition to the proposed legislation.
Democrats were particularly critical of a last-minute decision by House Republican leaders to scrap federal standards for the benefits that must be provided in health insurance policies in the bill.
“I don’t have the ability to adequately express my outrage,” said Democratic member of the House Jim McGovern.
“The Republican bill would return us to the day when insurers sold woefully inadequate policies with few protections.
“This backroom deal will kill the requirement for insurance companies to offer essential health benefits such as emergency services, maternity care, mental health care, substance addiction treatment, paediatric services, prescription drugs and many other basic essential services.”
Republicans tried to address these concerns with an amendment filed late on Thursday.
The amendment requires states to establish their own standards for “essential health benefits”, for the purpose of deciding which health plans can be used by people receiving federal tax credits to help pay premiums.
The amendment also provides $15 billion (€13.9 billion) in additional funds to states for “maternity coverage and newborn care” and for the “treatment of addiction and mental illness”.