Washington, D.C.

Ryan rushes to White House to tell Trump votes are lacking to repeal ‘Obamacare’

The Republican legislation, called the American Health Care Act, would, in a rare step, roll back a major social welfare program
House Speaker Paul Ryan on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 23, 2017.
House Speaker Paul Ryan on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 23, 2017.

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan, facing a revolt among conservative and moderate Republicans, rushed to the White House on Friday afternoon to inform President Donald Trump that he did not have the votes to pass legislation to repeal the health care law and to decide whether to pull the bill from consideration.

The president and the speaker faced the humiliating prospect of a major defeat on legislation promised for seven years, since the landmark health legislation was signed into law. Trump had demanded a vote regardless, which has been scheduled for Friday afternoon. But House leaders were leaning against such a public loss.

The House opened debate 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 program, a feat that is almost unheard of.

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 hard-line House Freedom Caucus, which has pressed for even more conservative policies, calling it 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.

Hard-line conservatives showed little sign of capitulation.

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.

“I don’t have the ability to adequately express my outrage,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass. “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, pediatric services, prescription drugs and many other basic essential services.”

Republicans tried to address these concerns with an amendment filed late 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 in additional funds to states for “maternity coverage and newborn care” and for the “treatment of addiction and mental illness.”

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