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Donald Trump concedes healthcare defeat but still refuses to take any responsibility

A Republican plan to only repeal Obamacare, and replace later, already appears to be struggling in the Senate 

Alexandra Wilts
Washington DC
Tuesday 18 July 2017 23:18 BST
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President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump (AP)

In a rare move, Donald Trump has conceded defeat – admitting that Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, one of his key campaign promises, have been unsuccessful.

In the days marking the end of his first six months as President, competing interests of Senate Republicans on healthcare came to a head, with multiple legislators announcing that they could not support the healthcare overhaul proposed by the Republican leadership.

Along with Mr Trump, several Republicans had ran on campaign platforms that called for repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare – a pillar of former President Barack Obama’s legacy.

But rather than taking any responsibility for the failure of Republican efforts, Mr Trump still blamed Democrats and other Republicans for the loss on healthcare and focused on the faults of Obamacare law rather than internal party politics.

“For seven years, I've been hearing ‘repeal and replace’ from Congress, and I've been hearing it loud and strong,” Mr Trump told reporters on Tuesday. “And then when we finally get a chance to repeal and replace, they don't take advantage of it. So, that's disappointing.”

“So I’m very – I would say I’m disappointed in what took place,” Mr Trump continued. “We’ll go on and we’ll win – we’re going to win on taxes, we’re going to win on infrastructure, and lots of other things that we’re doing.”

“We’ve had a lot of victories, but we haven’t had a victory on healthcare. We’re disappointed.”

Mr Trump said that his plan was now “to let Obamacare fail, it will be a lot easier.”

“And I think we're probably in that position where we'll let Obamacare fail,” the President said. “We're not going to own it. I'm not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it. We'll let Obamacare fail and then the Democrats are going to come to us.”

About 20 million people gained health insurance coverage through Obamacare. But Republicans say that it has driven up premiums and forced consumers to buy insurance they do not want and cannot afford.

Despite consistent criticism of the ACA, Republicans have been unable to agree on what a suitable replacement for the law should look like, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell struggled to gain support for his repeal and replacement bill.

Moderate senators worried that millions of people would lose their insurance following cuts to Medicaid – a healthcare programme for the poor – while conservatives asserted that the bill did not do enough to erase Mr Obama's signature domestic legislation.

Mr Trump was dealt a surprising blow when – while at a dinner on Monday night with Republicans discussing healthcare strategy – two other Republicans, Jerry Moran of Kansas and Mike Lee of Utah, declared they would oppose the Senate healthcare measure, effectively killing the bill.

Republicans Rand Paul of Kentucky, a conservative, and Susan Collins of Maine, a moderate had already said they would vote against beginning debate on the legislation. With a majority of 52 senators in the 100-member chamber, the Senate’s Republican leadership could only afford to lose two ‘yea’ votes and still pass the bill.

“I was very surprised when the two folks came out last night, because we thought they were in fairly good shape, but they did,” Mr Trump said.

After it became clear that he did not have the votes to pass his healthcare bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate would soon vote to take up a measure to repeal major parts of Obamacare, with it taking effect later.

Mr McConnell said the bill closely resembles legislation passed by the Senate in 2015 – but vetoed by then-President Obama – which delayed repeal for two years in order to give legislators more time to come up with a replacement.

Mr McConnell told reporters that the two-year delay “would give us the opportunity to work out a complete replacement on a bipartisan basis with our Democratic colleagues”, appearing to show a move toward bipartisanship that Democrats and many Republicans have been calling for. Democrats had accused the Senate's Republican leadership of writing their first healthcare bill behind closed doors.

However, a straight Obamacare repeal could lead to 32 million people losing their health insurance, according to an analysis of the Republicans’ 2015 repeal legislation by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The CBO had predicted that the previous Senate healthcare bill, released last month, would increase the number of people without health insurance by 22 million by 2026.

Less than 15 hours after Mr McConnell had announced his new plan, Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska immediately declared that they could not vote for a plan that repealed Obamacare without having a replacement ready.

In an extraordinary attack on her own party’s plan, Ms Capito said she rejected it because “I did not come to Washington to hurt people.”

Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer has also asserted that passing a repeal without a replacement plan would be a “disaster” to America's healthcare system.

Since Mr McConnell still needs 50 votes to move the legislation forward, the three female senators’ opposition appears to have already killed the bill.

But in a news conference following reports that the repeal plan would be dead on arrival, Mr McConnell expressed optimism, saying that “sometime in the near future we will have a vote on the repeal of Obamacare.”

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