House members respond to health care bill failure with disappointment, excitement

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., arrives to speak at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, March 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Friday that the failure of the Republican majority to come together in support of a health care reform bill was a sign of “growing pains” as the longtime opposition party learns to be a governing party.

“I will not sugarcoat this,” Ryan told reporters after pulling the American Health Care Act minutes before a vote was scheduled. “This is a disappointing day for us.”

He praised President Donald Trump for lobbying members hard to support the bill, the GOP’s attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

“The president gave his all in this effort He’s really been fantastic,” he said.

Ryan would not speculate on when the issue might be brought up for a vote in the future. The party plans to move on to other priorities now.

“We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future,” he said.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Cal., who was speaker when the ACA passed, celebrated the outcome.

“Today is a great day for our country,” she said. “What happened on the floor was a victory for the American people.”

Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., told CNN he was “profoundly disappointed” by the outcome, but Republicans might return to health care later in 2017.

“We are moving on, but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to do anything this year,” he said.

“I was planning to vote ‘yes’ today to repeal Obamacare, however the entrenched power of ‘no’ has continued gridlock in Washington,” Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., said in a statement. “There are a number of my colleagues on all sides of the political spectrum that just cannot get to a ‘yes’ vote for any legislation of significance. This is the tide that the President is swimming against and what is holding back a repeal and replacement of Obamacare.”

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a member of the Freedom Caucus whose opposition helped kill the bill, said repealing Obamacare is still a top priority.

Though President Trump has attempted to cast blame on Democrats, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, wrote that it is now time for bipartisan solutions.

"Lessons learned fr Obamacare failure and House withdrawal of Obamacare repeal:::major social policy change in US must be bipartisan," Grassley tweeted.

Senate Democrats offered more blunt assessments of what Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called “TrumpCare.”

“Ultimately, the TrumpCare bill failed because of two traits that have plagued the Trump presidency since he took office: incompetence and broken promises. In my life, I have never seen an administration as incompetent as the one occupying the White House today,” Schumer said in a statement.

“So much for the Art of the Deal,” he added.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said Congress should work to improve the ACA, not repeal it.

“The defeat of the disastrous Trump-Ryan health care bill is a major victory for working families and everyone who stood up in opposition,” he tweeted.

Sanders also posted a video vowing to work to guarantee health care to all Americans.

Democrats offered some lighter responses as well.

Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., tweeted a modified Monopoly board and wrote, “GOP must fully absorb the message sent loud & clear by grassroots America and echoed in today's failure: Stop playing games with health care.”

“Hey Republicans, don't worry, that burn is covered under the Affordable Care Act,” joked Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who strongly supported the Affordable Care Act during her failed bid for the presidency, also chimed in with a lengthy thread of tweets about people who benefited from the law.

The failure of the AHCA was greeted with applause by progressive advocacy groups.

“This incredible win today demonstrates the power of the grassroots resistance movement that’s emerged since the election,” said Anna Galland, executive director of Civic Action, in a statement.

“This win will send a surge of energy into the resistance movement,” she said. “Together, we’ll remain on guard against any effort to revive this bill or any new repeal efforts, and we will keep organizing and mobilizing until every American has quality, affordable health care. We will also continue to put our people power to work resisting the rest of the terrible Trump Republican agenda, including the Gorsuch nomination, Muslim ban, border wall, and mass deportations.”

Some conservative groups that never embraced the AHCA welcomed the development as well.

“Instead of trying to twist the arms of principled conservatives, Paul Ryan should pressure moderates who were just grandstanding last time,” FreedomWorks President Adam Brandon said in a statement. “We urge him to bring up that bill again and add Medicaid reform, HSA expansion, and pursue repeal or sunset of ObamaCare regulations that are driving up the cost of health insurance. We urge our activists to give him a call and suggest he keep his word.”

Former Rep. Jim DeMint, now president of the Heritage Foundation, said in a statement that this should spur Republicans to start over with a true repeal of the ACA.

“As a broad spectrum of conservative policy experts have been explaining for weeks, the House health care bill was a perfect marriage of bad policy, bad process and bad politics. Since the day it was introduced, this was presented as a false choice of this bill or nothing, and that strategy was proven very wrong,” DeMint said.

According to Glenn Altschuler, a professor of American studies at Cornell University, Friday’s events illustrated the inexperience of the Trump administration.

“This is a tough, tough start out of the block for President Trump,” he said.

Altschuler said Trump and GOP leaders should be alarmed that the Freedom Caucus impeded their ability to govern, much as it did during the Obama era.

“What we’ve learned is that some of the tea party, Freedom Caucus members who are certainly ideologically driven are not proving to be any more likely to compromise when their own party controls the White House than they were when they were the opposition,” he said.

If the episode drives Trump’s approval ratings lower, he warned that even more rank-and-file Republicans could be emboldened to stand up to the administration.

Altschuler also questioned the wisdom of Trump’s backup plan of allowing Obamacare to fail and blaming Democrats after voters handed Republicans a united government expecting them to do something about health care.

“Those strategies are perilous for the party in power to adopt because if there’s one thing voters know, it’s what health care they’re getting and how they’re paying for it,” he said.

Speaker Ryan told reporters Republicans now plan to tackle tax reform, despite the failure of Trump's first major legislative initiative.

“This does make tax reform more difficult but it does not in any way make it impossible,” he said.

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