March 24, 2017 at 3:48 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
In loss for Trump, House pulls legislation to repeal Obamacare
Joint Session of Congress, gay news, Washington Blade

The House pulled a vote on a health care bill endorsed by President Donald Trump . (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

In a loss for President Trump, the U.S. House withdrew legislation set for a vote Friday to repeal Obamacare.

Moments before the vote was scheduled in the afternoon, the Republican-controlled House cancelled the vote on the American Health Care Act, a measure crafted by U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and endorsed by Trump.

Ryan said at a news conference following the decision to withdraw the bill that it was a “disappointing day” for Republicans, who campaigned on repeal of the Affordable Care Act. The decision to withdraw the repeal bill comes during the same week as the seventh-year anniversary of Obamacare.

“Moving from an opposition party to a governing party comes with growing pains, and well, we’re feeling those growing pains today,” Ryan said. “We came really close today, but we came up short.”

The vote was scheduled after days of negotiations between the White House and lawmakers as many Republicans held out support for the legislation. Even though most observers predicted the votes to pass the bill were lacking, Trump ordered a vote Friday on the legislation saying the time had come for the House to act or move on.

Ryan said during the news conference after he advised Trump to cancel the vote, the president made the call to take that course of action. It wasn’t immediately clear whether a vote on the legislation or anything like it would come up at a later time.

“We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future,” Ryan said under questioning from reporters on what comes next.

In debate on the House floor, opposition to the American Health Care Act was unanimous among the Democratic caucus, which decried the measure as “Wealth Care” because it would have afforded tax cuts to those making more than $200,000 a year, but at the same time raise insurance premiums for older Americans.

Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) was among those who condemned the legislation on the House floor, saying it would achieve the “exact opposite” of the goals Trump and Republicans outlined to reduce health care costs.

“This bill doesn’t provide better, cheaper health care for everyone,” Sanchez said. “And guess what? Everybody knows that. By voting for this bill, you will literally force millions of Americans to pay more for less, and jeopardize the health of our country for generations. So, if you vote to break all the promises you made to the American people, then you’re going to own it and you’re going to responsible for whatever happens.”

According to scoring from the Congressional Budget Office, an estimated 24 million people would have lost insurance coverage as a result of the plan, largely as a result of cuts to Medicaid, which was expanded under Obamacare. For states that agreed to expand Medicaid, individuals at 133 percent of the poverty line and below would be eligible for coverage under the program.

A handful of moderate Republicans — Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) – came out against the legislation because they said it would undermine insurance enrollment in their districts. But members of the House Freedom Caucus opposed the bill on the basis it didn’t go far enough to undo Obamacare. The anti-LGBT Heritage Foundation urged a “no” vote on the bill on the basis it would leave the regulatory architecture of the Affordable Care Act in place.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), a lawmaker with a notoriously anti-LGBT reputation who was initially a “no” vote on the AHCA because it didn’t go far enough, defended the measure as “the first part of the repeal apple” on the House floor.

“If I thought we could do it all in one bite, I would stand for that,” King said. “But, instead, here’s what we got: We’ve got a $1 trillion tax cut. We’ve got a $1.15 trillion spending cut. We got a $150 billion deficit reduction. We’ve got a bill that eliminates the employer mandate, eliminates the individual mandate, and it eliminates federal mandates in the essential health benefits package on those 10 mandates, by the way. It expands health savings accounts, doubles them, and it allows for us to pass selling insurance across state lines and it enables catastrophic health insurance.”

The cancelled vote is a victory for LGBT rights supporters and HIV/AIDS activists, who opposed the bill on the basis that undoing the Medicaid expansion would be devastating for LGBT people. An estimated 40 percent of people with HIV receive coverage through Medicaid and, according to a recent report by the Center for American Progress, an estimated 18 percent of LGBT people, or about 1.8 million people.

The CAP report found a significant difference in the number of LGBT people insured before and after Obamacare went into effect. In 2013, before the ACA’s coverage went into effect, 1 in 3 LGBT people making less than $45,000 per year were uninsured, the report. But that figure, the report found, dropped to 1 in 4 in 2014 and 1 in 5 in 2017.

David Stacy, government affairs director for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement the cancelled vote marked “a win for the thousands of LGBTQ Americans who will retain life-saving health care under the Affordable Care Act.”

“The Republican proposal would have ripped away care from millions of people, with a particularly devastating impact on low-income senior citizens, women, children, LGBTQ people, people living with HIV and others,” Stacy said. “This move is an example of the power of constituents and their stories, which weighed heavily on members of Congress. Thankfully, members did not turn their backs on the very people they represent.”

The failure of the bill is a massive blow to President Trump, who made his deal-making prowess and plan to repeal and replace Obamacare a major part of his presidential campaign, but now failed to achieve that goal or any other major legislative victory despite Republican control of both chambers of Congress.

On Friday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was generally tight-lipped on the next steps after the vote, refusing to answer questions on the likely defeat of the bill before it happened. Asked why the vote should have been held if there was insufficient support to pass the measure, Spicer replied, “I’m just not going to comment on our strategy.”

Ahead of the vote on Friday, media reports indicated the Trump administration was grumbling about the measure. According to a report in The New York Times, Trump now ruefully wishes he had approached tax reform first on the legislative agenda and his team views the health reform measure as a “troublesome stepchild.” White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, according to a report in New York Magazine, has privately said the AHCA betrays the populist views on which he was elected and was “written by the insurance industry.”

A Quinnipiac poll published on Thursday found the AHCA was deeply unpopular with the American public. Voters disapprove of the plan by 56 percent to 17 percent, the poll found, with 17 percent undecided. Support among Republicans, the poll found, is a lackluster 41-24 percent. One out of every seven Americans, the poll found, think they’ll lose their insurance under the Republican plan.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • This just proves how much of a fraud and failure Trump really is! All that BS about the art of making the deal and knowing how to get things done. Now he admits he lied and is over his head. He couldn’t get healthcare done and taxes are even more complex than that! It’s the beginning of his comeuppance and the GOP downfall!

    This highlights that the obstruction to getting anything done in Congress is the Tea Party Caucus. Until you through them out of office, Congress will continue to be dysfunctional!

    Sounds like Trump needs a Democratic Coalition if he hopes to achieve anything! Time for him, Ryan, and the other conservative thugs to eat crow and have some humble pie!

    So much for you conservatives telling us the Dems are washed up! You can’t even come together to agree on anything while you’re in the majority to get your agenda passed! GOOD!

    This should cost you among your own support and change the tide during the mid-term elections when people realize they were duped and we are no better off than before!!!!

    • on another subject pence is responsible for removing limited protection for trans people working on federal contracts

      on the other hand pope Francis is generally supportive of trans people

      fyi there has been recently a literal explosion of fake news that is negative about trans people, most likely from republican extremists IMO now rhat marriage equality is a settled issue trans people are being attacked.

      fyi list of nations that allow gays to marry

      (missing from the list is French guiana which follows the laws of france on this and some other subjects

      Also malta where gays get all rights of marriage but the name is for the time being civil unions

      • People may call marriage equality settled law, but like abortion being settled law, you still get people who refuse to accept it as such and seek to undermine or get around those rulings! Take nothing for granted.

        Trump thinks trans rights should be determined by each individual state. That’s what they wanted to do with marriage. But rights should not begin and end at state borders and people should have rights that are portable and consistent as they move from state to state.

  • This just proves what I’ve shared before: Tip generously for good service.

    Character is revealed by your actions when you think nobody is watching.

    Tips are good karma. And karma never lies. Just ask Donald Trump.

    And only the wait staff knows for sure. Thank you.

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