WASHINGTON, D.C. — On the seventh anniversary of former President Obama signing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a planned vote on the House Republican leadership’s repeal and replace of the ACA, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), has been canceled.
News broke just hours before plans for the AHCA vote that the vote would not occur. Reporter Jake Sherman tweeted a note from majority whip Steve Scalise regarding the vote:
THE WHIP NOTICE…. pic.twitter.com/ADumnDc7xu
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) March 23, 2017
Asked during the afternoon White House press conference if he expected there to be a vote on the AHCA tonight, Press Secretary Sean Spicer replied, “That’s what I understand the House is scheduled, yes.” Asked if the vote will get pushed back, he answered, “That would be obviously up to Speaker Ryan and Leader McCarthy, but I have been … nothing leads me to believe that that’s the case.”
After the afternoon press briefing, news broke that the AHCA vote would not occur on Thursday night as had been planned.
Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded to the news, stating, “Debate will commence tonight as planned and 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.”
Spicer was vague about any change in votes on the AHCA coming from the President and Vice President’s meeting that day with thirty-plus members of the House Freedom Caucus. He said that members of the caucus stood up to say they were with the President, but did not define whether that meant specifically that any would vote “yes” on the bill. He was hesitant to give any numbers on specific votes gained or lost, claiming simply that the number had gone up.
The Secretary confirmed that “in a lot of cases there were some member that that was their number-one thing,” but that it wasn’t universal that essential health benefits was a sticking point on the AHCA. He went on to mention the “Phase 2” and “Phase 3” proposals on health care.
Spicer confirmed there is only “Plan A.” Asked if the President has asked Speaker Ryan to delay tonight’s vote on the AHCA, Spicer said unequivocally, “No.”
He said that he believes Republicans have proceeded with the bill ‘the right way” as compared to the way Democrats passed Obamacare.
Spicer referenced the numerous times Republicans in Congress have voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and said the President believes those Republicans have an obligation to fulfill their promise to the American people.
“It’s a balancing act, make no mistake about it that there’s a full spectrum of folks in the House that have disparate desires,” said Spicer, who went on to call the AHCA the “one vehicle” to repeal something as almost every Republican promised.
Several members of Congress involved in prior votes to repeal Obamacare have opposed the AHCA on the basis that it does not fully repeal Obamacare as they had promised their constituents.
“There’s a lot of concern among members about some of the sequencing on things,” said Spicer, adding that the President, Vice President, and “rest of the team” had done much to try to reassure members on sequencing and timing.
Asked how many members of the House Freedom Caucus stood up in the meeting to voice support for the President, Spicer wouldn’t give a number or names, but rather contended, “As we do the whip count…and you’ve gotta now make sure that certain people don’t fall off the end as you pick up certain people and so we’re keeping that vote total rather tight right now.”
Spicer continued to contend that there is no “Plan B” if a vote does not happen tonight or is not eventually successful on AHCA. There is only “Plan A,” according to Spicer. He would not specify who would have to answer for whether Speaker Ryan or others were responsible for not yet having the votes necessary to pass a bill on the repeal and replace of Obamacare.
“In a perfect world, if we had 60 votes we could do this in a very, very different way and having much more comprehensive legislative strategy,” contended Spicer, who had claimed, “If we don’t do it the way that we’re gonna do it, we need 60 votes, and we’re not going to get 60 votes in the Senate for this bill.” He cited Democrat opposition as being the reason.
Sen. Ted Cruz has contended that full repeal is possible in the Senate.
Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana