House Republican Leaders Withdraw Health Care Bill

Mar 24, 2017
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The House was supposed to vote this afternoon on the Republican bill to replace the Affordable Care Act. But instead, at the president's urging, House Speaker Paul Ryan abruptly pulled the bill. Ryan described it this way.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

PAUL RYAN: Moving from an opposition party to a governing party comes with growing pains. And while we're feeling those growing pains today, we came really close today. But we came up short.

CORNISH: NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith is with us in the studio. And, Tam, what happened here?

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: They didn't have the votes. And when it became clear, Ryan told the president that the best thing to do would be to pull the bull - pull the bill. And then the president agreed to do that.

CORNISH: But when we went to sleep last night, we heard that the White House had told House Republicans that they wanted a vote today no matter what. So what changed?

KEITH: Even this afternoon, they were saying they wanted a vote today no matter what. In the White House briefing, Sean Spicer, the press secretary, was saying that they were still working to turn more yes votes and looking toward an afternoon vote. However, he was also speaking in the past tense a lot and saying things like the president left everything on the field.

So what ultimately changed is that more and more no votes kept coming in as the day went on and after President Trump delivered an ultimatum last night. They had agreed to some amendments to bring along members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. But that, in turn, turned off moderate Republicans. And as Ryan made clear during his press conference today, the Freedom Caucus didn't actually move from no to yes. And they alone could bring the bill down.

CORNISH: So Paul Ryan came out and spoke today. Also, President Trump spoke. And despite basically haggling with other Republicans all week, what was his stance?

KEITH: He didn't want to cast blame on anyone. And here's just a little bit of what he said.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We were very close. It was a very, very tight margin. We had no Democrat support. We had no votes from the Democrats.

KEITH: I should take it back. He did want to cast blame on the Democrats. And, you know, the great thing about pulling a bill from the floor is that you never know how close or how far you were. And so both the president and the speaker came out and said, well, it was close.

CORNISH: Tamara Keith, stay with us. Now we're going to hear more reaction from Capitol Hill. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.