News World Trump ‘disappointed and surprised’ as health care bill pulled
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Trump ‘disappointed and surprised’ as health care bill pulled

President Donald Trump says repealing Obamacare was 'pretty much there within grasp'. Photo: Getty
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President Donald Trump has suffered a stunning political setback in a Congress controlled by his own party when Republican leaders pulled legislation to overhaul the US healthcare system, a major 2016 election campaign promise of the president and his allies.

Republican leaders of the House of Representatives pulled the legislation due to a shortage of votes despite desperate lobbying by the White House and its allies in Congress.

They had planned a vote on the measure after Mr Trump cut off negotiations with Republicans who had baulked at the plan and issued an ultimatum to vote on Friday, win or lose.

Republican moderates as well as the most conservative lawmakers had objected to the legislation.

The White House and House leaders were unable to come up with a plan that satisfied both moderates and conservatives.

Mr Trump told reporters they were “very close, and it was a very, very tight margin”.

“We had no Democrat support.  We had no votes from the Democrats. They weren’t going to give us a single vote, so it’s a very difficult thing to do.

“I’m disappointed because we could have had it.  So I’m disappointed. I’m a little surprised, to be honest with you.  We really had it.  It was pretty much there within grasp,” Mr Trump said. 

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 before the bill was pulled from the House floor after hours of debate.

Mr Ryan said he recommended that the legislation be withdrawn from the House floor because he did not have the votes to pass it, and that Trump agreed.
 Photo: Getty
Mr Ryan said he recommended that the legislation be withdrawn from the House floor because he did not have the votes to pass it, and that Trump agreed.
 Photo: Getty

Mr Ryan said he recommended that the legislation be withdrawn from the House floor because he did not have the votes to pass it, and that Mr Trump agreed.

Friday’s events cast doubt on whether Mr Ryan can get major legislation approved by fractious Republican lawmakers.

“I will not sugarcoat this. This is a disappointing day for us,” Ryan said at a news conference, adding that his fellow Republicans are experiencing what he called “growing pains” transitioning from an opposition party to a governing party.

“Doing big things is hard,” Mr Ryan added, noting that he got close but failed to muster the 216 votes needed to pass it.

Mr Ryan said he did not know what the next steps would be on healthcare, but called Obamacare so flawed that it would be hard to prop up.

Mr Trump told the Washington Post the healthcare bill would not be coming up again in the near future and that he wanted to see if Democrats who uniformly objected to the Republican plan would come to him to work on healthcare legislation.

“So what would be really good, with no Democrat support, is if the Democrats, when it explodes — which it will soon — if they got together with us and got a real healthcare bill.  I would be totally up to do it.  And I think that’s going to happen,” Mr Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.

Without the bill’s passage in Congress, Democratic former President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement, the 2010 Affordable Care Act – known as Obamacare – would remain in place despite seven years of Republican promises to dismantle it.

Repealing and replacing Obamacare was a top campaign promise by Trump in the 2016 presidential election, as well as by most Republican candidates, “from dog-catcher on up,” as White House spokesman Sean Spicer put it during a briefing on Friday.

“Bad things are going to happen to Obamacare.  There’s not much you can do to help it.  I’ve been saying that for a year and a half.  I said, look, eventually it’s not sustainable,” Mr Trump said.

“The insurance companies are leaving — you know that.  They’re leaving one by one, as quick as you can leave.  And you have states, in some cases, who will not be covered.  So there’s no way out of that.”

Hillary Clinton responded by saying the scrapping of the health care bill was “a victory for anyone who believes affordable health care is a human right”.

— with agencies

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