By Rhodri Sheldrake Davies
US President Donald Trump has withdrawn his controversial healthcare bill from Congress, after it became evident that it would not attain the minimum 215 Republican votes needed for it to pass. Mr Trump stated that he was “disappointed and surprised” that the vote had to be pulled, suggesting that Republicans “were very, very close” to getting the bill passed.
The New York Post reported that the bill was as much as 25 to 28 votes short of the 215 votes needed as of Thursday night. Rep. Chris Collins, Trump’s first Congressional supporter was highly critical of Republicans who refused to back the bill, stating “I’m very disappointed in our team that is not on board.” The repeal ‘Obamacare,’ which the act was set to replace, was an integral election pledge of many Republicans.
Sources suggest that the President’s office was contacted by the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, at 15:30 (19:30 GMT) on Friday and told that the bill would need to be pulled or see failure in congress, despite a statement from White House Press secretary Sean Spicer, who had announced that the vote was to go ahead only a couple of minutes earlier. This comes long after Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) warned that the White House was in disarray over the plans.
The American Healthcare Act had proposed cuts to the Medicaid programme for low income earners, the end of penalties for those who do not buy coverage as well as a block on federal payments to the women’s healthcare provider, Planned Parenthood, for a year. It had already provoked controversy following the release of an image of an all-male discussion on Women’s abortion rights on Vice President Mike Pence’s twitter.
The rebuke of the act, the first major piece of legislation to be put to Republican-controlled Congress by the Administration, sets an ominous precedent for the White House’s agenda, considering that it comes a mere 62 days into Mr Trump’s term, a time when the White House is usually perceived to be in its strongest position and party cohesion at its highest. This failure will compel the Trump Administration to rethink its approach, with the looming prospect of the need for an agreement on a budget to keep the government open in a mere few weeks now playing on their minds.
House Democrats were overjoyed with the decision. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the House minority leader, described the bill’s failure as “a victory for the American people,” whilst Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), the House minority whip, said that it was “a good day”. On the other hand, the mood of many disaffected republicans was sombre, with Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL) commenting “Democrats may be celebrating today, but it is the American people who will be hurt as #Obamacare continues to implode.”
The future of the Trump Administration’s ambitions for change now rides on its ability to adapt and push for Congressional unity following this crushing blow.
Image: Gage Skidmore via flickr.