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Self-Inflicted Collapse Chokes GOP Bill03/25 09:53
House Republicans passed roughly 60 bills over the past six years
dismembering President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. Other than minor
tweaks, they knew the measures would go nowhere because the Democrat still
lived in the White House. With a bill that counted Friday, they choked. It was
an epic, damaging, self-inflicted collapse that smothered the GOP effort.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Republicans passed roughly 60 bills over the past
six years dismembering President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. Other
than minor tweaks, they knew the measures would go nowhere because the Democrat
still lived in the White House.
With a bill that counted Friday, they choked. It was an epic, damaging,
self-inflicted collapse that smothered the GOP effort.
"We're going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future," a
flustered Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters after abruptly yanking the
legislation off the House floor to avert a certain defeat. "I don't know how
long it's going to take us to repeal this law."
The measure would have erased much of Obama's 2010 law, eliminating its
unpopular requirement that people buy coverage, ending its Medicaid expansion
and trimming federal assistance to people to help pay medical bills. It
represented the culmination of seven years of unsuccessful GOP attempts to
craft a replacement bill the party could rally behind --- a unity that ended up
With President Donald Trump serving alongside a Congress controlled by the
GOP, the bill was the party's first genuine opportunity to repeal Obama's
statute. Ryan shelved it amid defections from centrist Republicans who thought
it went too far and conservatives who considered it too weak, plus solid
Its rejection was fueled by nonpartisan congressional analysts concluding it
would cause 24 million people to lose coverage in a decade and drive up costs
for poorer and older people. There was also opposition from doctors, hospitals,
consumer groups and AARP.
One problem facing the GOP is repercussions from the party's voters. For
nearly a decade, they've heard countless Republican congressional candidates
promise to repeal Obama's statute, a pledge that became a centerpiece of
Trump's presidential campaign.
"It's a really good question," Ryan said, asked how Republicans could face
constituents after failing to deliver on years of promises. "I wish I had a
better answer for you."
Democrats, loyal defenders of Obama's law, were literally jumping for joy.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., removed her shoes and took a
victory leap while meeting activists outside the Capitol.
Obama's statute has spread coverage to 20 million people and required
insurers to cover numerous services and barred them from refusing policies to
the very sick.
Top congressional Republicans conceded the measure's demise meant it was
time to move onto other issues.
Among them was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who has spoken
repeatedly about how unraveling Obama's law was a top priority for his chamber.
In a statement, he expressed only gloom about the effort's future.
"Obamacare is failing the American people and I deeply appreciate the
efforts of the speaker and the president to keep our promise to repeal and
replace it, "McConnell said. "I share their disappointment that this effort
came up short."
Two chief House authors expressed no taste for diving back into the issue.
"D-O-N-E done. This bill is dead," said Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., who heads
the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, said
Republicans "are moving full speed ahead with President Trump on the first
pro-growth tax reform in a generation."
Conveying some hope was Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., who with Sen. Susan
Collins, R-Maine, proposed health care legislation that would let states decide
to continue Obama's programs.
"Mr. President, Cassidy-Collins is still an option to fulfill your promise
to repeal and replace #Obamacare," Cassidy tweeted Friday.
But there was no easy path ahead. Retooling America's health care system ---
it comprises one-sixth of the nation's economy --- is a multi-tiered puzzle.
On the economic side, it involves refashioning how providers, patients and
federal programs should interact. And a political balance must be struck
between conservatives eager to erase Obama's law and push the system toward a
free-market approach, and GOP moderates wary that would strip coverage from
some voters and drive up out-of-pocket costs for others.
Earlier this month, Ryan thought he would find that balance.
"We'll have 218 (votes) when this thing comes to the floor, I can guarantee
you that," he said, referring to the House majority usually needed to pass
Ironically, the outcome hewed more closely to a prediction by Ryan's
predecessor, former Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. Boehner was forced out of
office in 2015 largely by the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, the same group
whose opposition was largely responsible for the crumpling of the GOP bill on
Boehner said last month that while Republicans would fix some problems of
Obama's law, a repeal and replacement is "not going to happen."
He added, "Republicans never ever agree on health care."
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