House Republicans at long last voted to end the national policy nightmare known as Obamacare, achieving the votes to begin partial repeal of the Affordable Care Act on Thursday afternoon.
The vote was a nail-biter, 217-213. Bills require 216 votes to pass the House.
“While it is not a complete repeal, thanks to conservatives the bill has moved a long way in the right direction.”
The partial repeal, known as the American Health Care Act, will now head to the Senate. The bill could face the same kind of fate it had in the House: months of Hamlets on the Hill, waxing indignant on the plight of the uninsured, if repeal of Obamacare happens.
But Republicans, even moderate Republicans in the Senate, have long promised to repeal and replace Obamacare since the hated Democratic policy became law in March 2010.
On Thursday, House Republicans finally broke the logjam that had embarrassed House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), President Donald Trump, and the Republican Party in general. The GOP had made opposition to Obamacare a central plank in its 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016 campaigns.
Opposition to Obamacare also helped fuel the rise of Tea Party organizations, which aided conservatives in elections. Trump himself repeatedly used the term “repeal and replace” in his insurgent 2016 campaign.
But Republicans, controlling both chambers in the Congress, couldn’t even come up with 216 votes in the House. Ryan pulled the bill on March 22, kicking off weeks of embarrassing news stories on the GOP failure to deliver on one of its biggest campaign pledges since Abraham Lincoln promised to abolish slavery.
Pundits and D.C.’s chattering class were quick to pounce after weeks of wishful speculating from the predominantly liberal mainstream media that Obamacare may remain the “law of the land” forever.
Mary Bruce of ABC News admitted it was a “big day for Republicans” but said the Senate would likely see the bill “ripped apart.”
Yet Republicans were happy to have the bill out of the House and on to the upper chamber. Tea Party groups also celebrated, even as they admitted the bill was not a complete repeal.
“While it is not a complete repeal, thanks to conservatives the bill has moved a long way in the right direction,” said Mark Meckler, a Tea Party leader and president of Citizens for Self-Governance, in a statement to LifeZette. “Killing the mandates, block-granting money rightfully belonging to the states, a phase-out of Medicaid expansion, and the potential for state waivers from some of Obamacare’s more onerous provisions are a good start. Removing the ’30 hours equals full-time’ provision will help restore entry-level jobs and aid the most in need of work in our society.”
Republicans had been murmuring about a Thursday vote on Wednesday after a key compromise was forged with moderates, but some observers scoffed. Then came the surprise call for a vote on Wednesday night, with Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the House majority leader, telling reporters that the House GOP had the votes.
The conservative Freedom Caucus helped kill a vote on the bill on March 22. After that, the Freedom Caucus and the moderate Tuesday Group began a war of words, bickering over details while exasperated Republican voters waited for a deal.
Behind the scenes, Trump and Ryan worked with House Republicans to pick up votes. Even a few senators, including U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), pitched in to work out differences.
At the Thursday morning conference meeting, the Washington Examiner reported that Rep. Daniel Webster, a key holdout, said Ryan was “cheering. I think he was almost giddy.” Webster, a Central Florida Republican and a conservative who likely wanted more repeal provisions, said he would vote for the repeal bill.