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President Trump urged Republicans today to rip up their attempt to overhaul America’s health system and start again with a ‘clean slate’ after a rebellion in the ruling party killed off new legislation before it even got to a vote.
The bill’s dramatic collapse was a massive blow to Mr Trump who had made the repeal of his White House predecessor’s ‘Obamacare’ health reforms a cornerstone of his presidential election campaign.
The death knell sounded for the Republican replacement early today when two more Republicans in the US Senate withdrew their support, effectively meaning the bill was doomed.
Jerry Moran of Kansas and Mike Lee of Utah both announced their opposition in statements, bringing the total number of Republican senators to oppose the bill to four.
They joined Senators Rand Paul and Susan Collins, who had already bailed on the bill.
With just 52 seats, Republicans could only afford to lose two votes to pass their proposed rewrite of the Affordable Care Act. All 46 Democrats and two independents were expected to vote against it.
The president was said to have been ‘blind-sided’ by the eleventh hour mutiny. He was having dinner in Washington with other lawmakers when the latest defections were announced.
‘If the Republicans have the House, Senate and the presidency and they can’t pass this health care bill they are going to look weak. How can we not do this after promising it for years?’ he is reported to have told his dining companions.
Mr Trump doesn’t appear to have a healthcare plan of his own to save the day. He later tweeted: ‘Republicans should just REPEAL failing Obamacare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate. Dems will join in!’
The news threw the effort to come up with a new US healthcare system into turmoil. In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – who had been hoping to push the bill through by the end of the week – admitted the setback was ‘regretful.’
He said the Senate would now try and pass a bill to repeal Obamacare without having anything to replace it with. There would be a two-year delay written in to provide time to come up with an effective – and politically viable – alternative.
‘Regretfully, it is now apparent that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be successful,’ said Mr McConnell.
‘So, in the coming days, the Senate will vote to take up the House bill with the first amendment in order being what a majority of the Senate has already supported in 2015 and that was vetoed by then-President Obama: a repeal of Obamacare with a two-year delay to provide for a stable transition period to a patient-centered healthcare system that gives Americans access to quality, affordable care.’
Envisaging a tough road ahead, he added: ‘The only way we’ll get there is with continued hard work, and that’s just what we intend to do.’
Senator Lee, one of the Republicans who bailed on the replacement plan, said it didn’t ‘go far enough in lowering premiums for middle class families. Nor does it create enough free space from the most costly Obamacare regulations,’ he added.
Senator Moran said the bill ‘fails to repeal the Affordable Care Act or address healthcare’s rising costs.’
Democrats could barely hide their glee at the Republican meltdown.
‘This second failure of Trumpcare is proof positive that the core of this bill is unworkable,’ said Minority Leader Charles Schumer.
‘Rather than repeating the same failed, partisan process yet again, Republicans should start from scratch and work with Democrats on a bill that lowers premiums, provides long-term stability to the markets and improves our health-care system.’
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