Despite personal appeals from the president and a flurry of last-minute negotiations with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), wary lawmakers remained unconvinced.
House GOP leaders postponed a vote Thursday on legislation to overhaul the Affordable Care Act amid a Republican revolt that raised doubts about the fate of the measure.
Leaders hope to reschedule a vote Friday.
Conservatives argued the bill did not go far enough in dismantling the healthcare law known as Obamacare, while moderates feared millions of Americans would be left without health coverage.
Republican leaders hoped to swiftly regroup to amend the bill, the American Health Care Act, but options for generating more support appeared limited because making concessions to one faction risked losing support from another. Efforts were complicated by resistance in the Senate, where Republicans have largely panned the House package as unacceptable.
The decision to cancel the vote leaves in limbo Trump’s bid to quickly scrap his predecessor’s signature healthcare law and deliver on his party’s long-running campaign promise.
Trump, faced with a growing fallout from the FBI investigation into possible collusion between Russia and his presidential campaign, was hoping that a decisive victory in the effort to repeal Obamacare would provide him with much-needed political momentum to propel other ambitious efforts, such as overhauling the nation’s tax code, pursuing new trade deals and dramatically scaling back federal spending.
The president made a hard sell this week, warning Republicans that they risked losing their congressional majority in the next election if they failed to support the bill.
The vote delay also dealt an embarrassing defeat to Ryan. Facing solid opposition from Democrats, the speaker must rely on the GOP majority for passage and can lose no more than about 20 Republicans. Defections at one point this week spilled beyond 30.
The conservative House Freedom Caucus — which had been somewhat overshadowed by Trump’s rise in recent months — led the opposition, reestablishing itself as one of the party’s most formidable power centers. Backed by Senate allies, the caucus at times bypassed Ryan and negotiated directly with the White House.
The arrangement raised familiar questions about who was in control of the GOP. And the failure to reach an agreement tarnished Trump’s image as a dealmaker.
“The president’s doing everything he can to make this happen,” said Rep. James Renacci (R-Ohio).
“Everybody has their own opinion. Everybody has their own thoughts. Everybody wants one little thing in a bill,” he said. “In the end, to get something done, you got to have some compromise.”
As Republicans scrambled for votes to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, President Trump will likely be making calls “throughout the night” to shore up support, a White House official said Thursday.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he is continuing to make the calls throughout the night,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah H. Sanders told reporters.
GOP lawmakers decided to postpone the vote on the bill until at least Friday morning when it became clear that there weren’t enough “yes” votes to pass it. The decision came only about an hour after White House spokesman Sean Spicer said that there would be no delay, and it appeared to catch the White House by surprise.
Even at this late hour, Sanders said that Trump was still open to hearing from lawmakers on “ways to make the bill better.”