U.S. President Donald Trump blasted congressional Democrats and “a few Republicans” Tuesday over the collapse of his party’s effort to rewrite the Obama health-care law, and warned, “We will return.”
Trump’s early morning tweet led off a barrage of Republican criticism of Congress over the party’s failure on its flagship legislative priority. For seven years, Republicans have pledged to repeal former president Barack Obama’s law.
“Most Republicans were loyal, terrific & worked really hard,” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning. “We were let down by all of the Democrats and a few Republicans.”
He added, “As I have always said, let Obama Care fail and then come together and do a great healthcare plan. Stay tuned!”
Two senators — Utah’s Mike Lee and Jerry Moran of Kansas — sealed the measure’s doom late Monday when they announced they would vote “no” in an initial, critical vote that had been expected as soon as next week. That meant that at least four of the 52 Republican senators were ready to block the measure — two more than majority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky had to spare in the face of unanimous Democratic opposition.
On the Senate floor Tuesday, McConnell conceded that the legislation repealing the 2010 law and replacing it with Republican-preferred programs “will not be successful,” essentially waving a white flag.
‘The core of this bill is unworkable.’— Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer
He said instead, the Senate would vote on legislation dismantling much of Obama’s statute that would take effect in two years, which Republicans say would give Congress time to approve replacement legislation. But such legislation seems unlikely to be approved, with many Republicans concerned the two-year gap would roil insurance markets and produce a political backlash.
“This doesn’t have to be the end of the story,” McConnell said.
But two other Republican senators said on Tuesday they can’t vote to repeal the law without a replacement.
West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito said in a statement she “did not come to Washington to hurt people.” Her concerns focused on proposed cuts to Medicaid and the impact on treating the opioid epidemic, which has hit her state hard.
Separately, Maine Senator Susan Collins also said she opposes the repeal and delay approach. Collins said it’s not constructive to repeal a law so interwoven within the health-care system and then hope over the next two years to come up with a replacement.
The retreat was the second stinging setback on the issue in three weeks for McConnell, whose reputation as a legislative mastermind has been marred as he’s failed to unite his chamber’s Republicans behind a health overhaul package that highlighted jagged divides between conservatives and moderates. In late June, he abandoned an initial package after he lacked enough Republican support to pass.
The episode has also been jarring for Trump, whose intermittent lobbying and nebulous, often contradictory descriptions of what he’s wanted have shown he has limited clout with senators. That despite a determination by Trump, McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin to demonstrate that a Republican-controlled White House and Congress can govern effectively.