WASHINGTON — President Trump abandoned the Republican health care bill on Friday, but he predicted the decision to give up on the legislation would lead to “an even better health care plan.”
Trump spoke to reporters in the Oval Office shortly after news broke that Republican leaders would not hold a floor vote on the bill because they did not have enough votes to pass it. The president said his plan is to let Obamacare “explode” and predicted that Democrats will be willing to work with him once it does and help craft “a health care bill that would be the ultimate.”
Trump began his remarks by lamenting that Democrats didn’t back this bill.
“We were very close … it was a very, very tight margin. We had no Democrat support. We had no votes from the Democrats. They weren’t going to give us a single vote, so it’s a very difficult thing to do,” said Trump.
Along with Democrats, the health care bill faced opposition from members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. According to a senior administration official, they were more than 10 votes short of what they needed to pass the bill. The official said House Speaker Paul Ryan gave Trump the news during a White House visit on Friday afternoon, leading to the decision to pull the bill. While Trump and his team had previously pushed for a vote, Ryan suggested they abandon that plan and the president agreed.
Trump said he “would have loved to have seen it passed.” However, he pointed to comments he made on the campaign trail last year where he predicted Obamacare’s demise and suggested Democrats will be forced to work with him once it does.
“I think there wasn’t a speech I made or very few where I didn’t mention that, perhaps the best thing that could happen is exactly what happened today,” said Trump. “Because we’ll end up with a truly great health care bill in the future after this mess known as Obamacare explodes.”
Trump argued that the bill’s failure was worse for Democratic congressional leaders because people associate them with Obamacare.
“I think the losers are Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer because now they own Obamacare. They own it 100 percent. … This is not a Republican health care. This is not anything but a Democrat health care,” he said, adding, “They have Obamacare for a little while longer until it ceases to exist, which it will at some point in the near future.”
After making a brief statement, Trump took questions from reporters in the Oval Office. One asked him if he felt “betrayed” by the Freedom Caucus. He acknowledged being “disappointed” but dismissed any tension within the Republican Party.
“They’re friends of mine. I’m disappointed because we could have had it. So I’m disappointed. I’m a little surprised, to be honest with you. We really had it. It was pretty much there within grasp,” said Trump. “But I’ll tell you what’s going to come out of it is a better bill. I really believe a better bill, because there were things in this bill I didn’t particularly like.”
Ultimately, Trump described the effort to pass the bill as a learning experience. He said it taught him about congressional votes. In a comment that could be seen as a threat to Republicans who didn’t support him, Trump also suggested the experience taught him about “loyalty.”
“It certainly was an interesting period of time. We all learned a lot. We learned a lot about loyalty. We learned a lot about the vote-getting process. We learned a lot about some very arcane rules in, obviously, both the Senate and in the House,” said Trump. “It’s been a very interesting experience, but in the end, I think it’s going to be an experience that leads to an even better health care plan.”
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