US healthcare bill: Blow for Trump as House vote delayed

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The provisions within the new healthcare bill have caused huge political debate

A vote on President Donald Trump’s new health care bill in the House of Representatives has been delayed.

The postponement is a setback for the president who had insisted he would win the numbers to pass it through the lower chamber of Congress on Thursday.

The American Healthcare Act is intended to replace parts of President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law.

Repealing and replacing so-called Obamacare was a major plank of Mr Trump’s election campaign.

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said that Republicans would still be meeting on Thursday evening but that the plan now was for a House vote on Friday, following a debate.

A White House official said that “the vote will be in the morning to avoid voting at 3AM… We feel this should be done in the light of day, not in the wee hours of the night and we are confident the bill will pass in the morning”.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Mr Trump had made a “rookie’s error for bringing this up on a day when clearly you’re not ready”.

Delay better than defeat – Anthony Zurcher, BBC News, Washington

After a tumultuous day on Capitol Hill, it has become apparent that there simply aren’t enough votes to pass the healthcare reform law. At the moment, it may not even be close.

Minutes before the announced delay, the president himself was insisting that a vote would happen on Thursday night, so this turn of events signifies an embarrassing setback.

If success was just a vote or two away, the evening would probably have proceeded as planned, with Speaker Paul Ryan and Donald Trump offering whatever threats or entreaties were necessary to edge past the finish line. Instead, the bill remains on the edge of an abyss.

For Republicans, a delay is better than outright defeat, of course, a scenario which would have undermined both the president’s claims to be a dealmaking supremo and Mr Ryan’s ability to control his party’s hardliners.

The White House now has more time to negotiate with the conservative House Freedom Caucus, who represent the best, possible last, chance to salvage the bill. Such support will come with a high price, however, with any move to the right making the legislation all the harder to pass in the more moderate-minded Senate.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has all week insisted the administration would get the numbers and that the bill would pass, saying there was “no plan B”.

Shortly before the delay was announced, he was still talking of “very positive steps” and that the number of supporters for the bill was continuing to rise.

The bill needs 215 votes to pass but ran into opposition mainly from conservative Republicans who believed it did not roll back enough of Mr Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

More on the healthcare story

Media captionWhat’s in the Republican healthcare bill?

The Republicans could only afford to lose 21 votes from their own ranks, but US media were projecting between 24 and 30 “no votes” on Thursday morning.

The conservative House Freedom Caucus met Mr Trump on Thursday and afterwards said there was “no deal”.

With some moderate Republicans also defecting – and all Democrats opposed – it appeared Speaker Paul Ryan could not see the numbers adding up.

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Mr Trump had a meeting with truckers at the White House, but was hit with a roadblock in the House

The failure to go to a vote is a blow for the president, who has projected himself as a master dealmaker and has spent the week visiting the Capitol and calling senators on the phone to win over opponents.

House Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows said there were “not enough members to get a yes, but progress is being made”.

He played down what he called the “artificial deadline” of Thursday.

Mr Meadows insisted: “We are going to get to the finish line.”

Key elements of the new bill:

  • Cuts the Medicaid programme for low earners
  • Provides tax credits to help people pay medical bills, but reduced compared to Obamacare
  • Ends penalties on those who do not buy health coverage
  • Allows insurers to raise premiums for older people
  • Blocks federal payments to women’s healthcare provider Planned Parenthood for a year

US healthcare bill: Blow for Trump as House vote delayed