MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Time was up for President Donald Trump’s first signature piece of legislation. Friday was the day the health care bill to replace Obamacare either lived or died – all hanging on a vote in the House.
And nothing happened. House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the bill just before the vote, at the request of the president. This happened amid a struggle for them to get votes of support to get the bill through.
“We came really close today but we came up short,” said Ryan. “This is a disappointing day for us.”
Despite the disappointment, Ryan said he plans to keep going.
“This is not the end of the story,” said Ryan, while also saying he did not think the law, the way it’s fashioned, would have success in passing in the future.
“We were very, very close,” the president said, in reaction to the defeat of the Republican health care bill. It was a “very tight margin” which came with “no Democrat support…they weren’t going to give us a single vote,” Mr. Trump noted.
He denied ever placing a timetable on the repeal of the ACA.
“I never said repeal it and replace it within 64 days,” he said.
However, acting quickly to replace Obama’s signature bill was a staple of his campaign speeches.
“From day one I’ve been talking about we’re going to repeal and replace Obamacare from day one, we’re going to do it,” candidate Trump said in Milford, New Hampshire in February 2016.
Now, the president indicated he’s ready to move on, saying, as he has in recent days, “The best thing we can do, politically speaking, is let Obamacare explode. It’s exploding right now.”
The new next plan for the president may well boil down to something like “collapse and repeal.”
The president promised, “We’ll end up with a great bill in the future, once Obamacare collapses.”
Mr. Trump predicted that there will soon be states that won’t be covered, and eventually it won’t be sustainable.
Ryan shared his concern for Obamacare, saying it’s “going to be getting even worse.”
As for the future, Ryan said they will move forward to other things.
“Now we are going to move on with the rest of the agenda,” said Ryan. “We will proceed with tax reform.”
Earlier, Ryan paid a visit to the White House to deliver the message that President Trump’s American Health Care Act was likely to fail in Congress.
The House started a debate Friday morning. Those who supported it said it was meant to replace what they say is a failing system.
“Seven years of Obamacare is long enough. Seven years of families seeing their premiums rise, plans cancelled and doctors dropped is enough,” said Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN).
Critics argued it booted 24 million Americans off insurance.
“I oppose this bill with every breath, and every bone in my body,” said Rep. John Lewis (D-GA).
The White House put its full support behind the bill. President Trump huddled with House Speaker Paul Ryan at the White House earlier while Vice President Mike Pence gave a last-minute pitch to Republican holdouts on Capitol Hill.
“By our count, over 120 members have personally had a visit, call or meeting here at the White House in the past few days,” said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.
Before the previously scheduled vote, President Trump and Speaker Ryan pressured reluctant Republicans by reminding them that every single GOP member campaigned on overturning Obamacare.
The overhaul dropped requirements that insurance companies cover ten essential services, including hospitalization, maternity care, prescriptions, and mental health.
At least 13 of the Conservative Republican holdouts needed to switch to yes for the bill to pass.
President Trump called the bill a great plan and sent his budget director to Capitol Hill with a strong message Friday morning – if Republicans wanted to scrap Obamacare, the vote was their only chance.
White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said earlier if the deal collapsed, the White House planned to move on to other priorities.
“Lawmakers will have to be accountable as to why they didn’t vote to get rid of Obamacare when they had the chance and that chance is today,” said Mulvaney.
President Trump – who has sold himself as the ultimate deal maker – learned Friday that hardball did not work as well in Congress as it does in the board room.
Trump and Ryan will need conservative support in the weeks and months ahead as they push other legislation such as tax reform and funding for President Trump’s border wall.