Republicans Cancel Vote on Health Care Bill

Democrats chant ‘Vote, vote, vote’

Vice President Mike Pence and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price leave their meeting with members of the House Freedom Caucus at the Capitol Hill Club. A failed final effort to secure the votes necessary to pass legislation repealing and replacing the 2010 health care law. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House on Friday canceled a scheduled vote on the Republican bill to repeal and replace the 2010 health care law, in what could be a catastrophic blow to the party’s seven-year campaign against the law.

Cheers could be heard from the House Democratic cloakroom as the news spread.

President Donald Trump told House Speak Paul Ryan to pull the bill during a 3 p.m. meeting between the two, a GOP leadership aide said.

Shortly after that meeting the House was abruptly declared in recess. House Democrats chanted, “Vote. Vote. Vote.”

Moderates and conservatives banded together to prevent the controversial package, introduced just three weeks ago, from coming to a full vote on the house floor. More than a dozen lawmakers had made public statements opposing the bill by early Friday, and many more suggested to reporters they were leaning toward “no.”

Asked whether the House is giving up its efforts to repeal the health care law, Tennessee GOP Rep. Phil Roe, author of one of the earliest GOP replacement plans, said yes.

“I think it’s over. The president is moving on,” Roe said.

“This bill is dead,” Washington Republican Rep. Greg Walden told reporters.

Other members weren’t so sure.

“We’re on guard,” said Arizona Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego about concerns of another health care measure surfacing. “Crazy times,” he said.

Chief Deputy Whip Patrick McHenry said the party was “one decision away” from being able to send the legislation on to the Senate.

It was a stinging setback for the Trump administration and House leadership, who spent the last month aggressively trying to woo hesitant lawmakers before issuing a final ultimatum late Thursday: vote now or the health care law remains intact.

A new vote on the legislation was not immediately scheduled. The move is a direct contradiction of Trump’s ultimatum and clear proof that his self-touted negotiating prowess could not stand up to Congress. In the end, he was not willing to walk away. The lawmakers were.

Florida Republican Rep. Brian Mast said he was “disappointed” the bill was pulled and that no indication of next steps for health care legislation was given.

“I wanted to see us go out there and have the fight,” he said. “We’ll be back to work on Monday. Get back at it,” he said. 

Republicans had promised to repeal and replace the law as early as January, but they have now missed every single deadline they set forth for themselves.

The delay is particularly embarrassing for both the Trump administration and Ryan, who were aggressively pushing the measure up until the final moments. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was calling members of the moderate Tuesday Group on Friday urging them to vote for the bill, aides and lawmakers said. A House leadership aide also said Ryan was meeting one-on-one with members up throughout the day.

“This is a setback … no two ways about it,” Ryan said at a 4 p.m. press conference.

A block of “no” votes that included the House Freedom Caucus prevented the bill from moving forward, he said.

The last-minute deal-making capped off a week of intense efforts to gain support for the legislation. Trump himself on Monday made a rare Capitol Hill appearance, as officials like Vice President Mike Pence and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price traversed the Capitol the last few months for meetings with members from all political sides of the Republican party. Trump, too, summoned members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and moderate Tuesday Group to the White House several times in just the last week. Ultimately Trump’s much-touted negotiation skills were not enough.

The bill, which was brought to the House floor after several last-minute changes with no independent analysis from the Congressional Budget Office, faced opposition from all sides of the GOP party. Moderates were concerned about a prior report from the nonpartisan CBO which estimated that the bill could result in 24 million more uninsured individuals than current law. Conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus said it did not do enough to lower insurance costs. The group demanded several major policy changes in the last week, including a repeal of the law’s so-called essential health benefits.

“Wow, oh, wow,” said Florida Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist after it became clear there would be no vote on the bill.

“Aren’t you glad you switched parties?” a staffer said.

Erin Mershon, Joe Williams, Lindsey McPherson, Bridget Bowman, Simone Pathé and Jason Dick contributed to the this report.Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.