President Donald Trump had the vote on his health care legislation pulled at the last minute on Friday after House Republicans failed to gather enough votes.
“We just pulled it,” Trump told The Washington Post in an interview minutes before scheduled vote.
The move comes hours after House Speaker Paul Ryan visited the White House to tell Trump the legislation didn’t have enough votes to pass.
“I don’t blame Paul,” Trump said Friday.
Washington Post reporter Robert Costa tweeted that President Trump called him to tell him the vote was pulled. Costa told MSNBC Trump said the final decision was his own, and that he sounded businesslike on the phone, not angry.
Trump also told Costa that House Republicans were just “5 to 12” votes short of passing the bill, and that he was willing to make a bi-partisan deal in the future.
At the Capitol Friday afternoon, Ryan faced reporters who staked out the corridors all day waiting for the vote. “I will not sugarcoat this, this is a disappointing day for us,” Ryan said. “The president gave his all. … This is a setback, no two ways about it. But it is not the end of the story.”
“We can get there but we weren’t there today,” he said.
But, Ryan later added reluctantly, “We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future. I’m not sure how long it’s going to take to replace it.”
Democratic Party Chair Tom Perez also did not sugarcoat — but did add a dash of gloat: “This was a rejection of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. In the words of my friend Joe Biden: This is a BFD.”
Trump pulled the plug even after his White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, insisted to reporters the show would go on — win or lose. “The House will be voting on the American Health Care Act, the current vote is scheduled for 3:30,” Spicer told the White House press corps earlier Friday.
The vote was initially scheduled for Thursday but was delayed by House Republicans following a tense day of negotiations that failed to yield enough votes for the legislation.
Trump responded Thursday night by issuing an ultimatum to GOP lawmakers — demanding they vote on Friday and threatening to leave Obamacare in place if the new health care legislation failed to pass.
Many considered the move a major gamble for Trump in this early stage of his presidency.
But Ryan also backed the make-or-break vote, telling reporters on Thursday: “We have been promising the American people that we will repeal and replace this broken law because it’s collapsing and it’s failing families. And tomorrow we’re proceeding.”
Thursday marked the seventh anniversary of the passage of President Barack Obama‘s Affordable Care Act that brought health insurance to millions of Americans. The former president celebrated the law’s successes in a lengthy statement on Thursday.
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“Thanks to this law, more than 20 million Americans have gained the security and peace of mind of health insurance,” Obama wrote. “Thanks to this law, more than 90 percent of Americans are insured — the highest rate in our history. Thanks to this law, the days when women could be charged more than men and Americans with pre-existing conditions could be denied coverage altogether are relics of the past,” Obama wrote. “America is stronger because of the Affordable Care Act.”
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The GOP health care legislation would replace key components of Obamacare and block federal payments to Planned Parenthood for a year.
Ahead of the vote, members of the progressive activist group MoveOn.org flooded Congress with more than 13 thousands calls Friday morning in an effort to stop the legislation.
Some conservatives are also opposed to the legislation, saying it doesn’t go far enough to repeal Obamacare.