It appears Donald Trump won’t achieve his campaign promise of repealing and replacing Obamacare before his first 100 days in office, as members of Congress direct their attention to averting a government shutdown.
The White House has been scrambling to pass a revised health care bill since their first effort crashed and burned. Mr Trump ordered the White House-backed Affordable Health Care Act (AHCA) to be pulled from a House vote last month, after it became obvious there were not enough votes to pass it.
Members of the House Freedom Caucus, who many credit with bringing down the original plan, pledged their support for a revised version of the AHCA on Wednesday. The about-face hinged on the addition of a new amendment, allowing states to opt out of covering essential health benefits, and other key Obamacare protections.
The news sparked renewed calls for a health care vote, at the same time Republicans pushed to move a vote on government funding back by a week. Congress has been working all week on a spending bill to keep the government funded until September.
Republicans on Wednesday suggested a continuing resolution that would push the funding vote back by a week.
Democrats, however, threatened to oppose the continuing resolution and allow the government to shut down if Republicans scheduled the health care vote.
"If Republicans announce their intention to bring their harmful TrumpCare bill to the House Floor tomorrow or Saturday, I will oppose a one-week Continuing Resolution and will advise House Democrats to oppose it as well," Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer said in a statement.
Democrats were surprised by Republicans' ability to put together a deal that satisfied the Freedom Caucus, sources with knowledge of the situation tell The Independent. Delaying the vote will give leadership time to examine and hone their message on what Democrats are calling a "backroom" healthcare deal.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan accused Democrats of “dragging their feet” on the spending bill on Thursday, but also admitted he likely would not schedule a health care vote for this week.
“We think it’s a really good step in the right direction,” Mr Ryan said of the health care bill. “We’re having very productive conversations with our members, and we’ll announce, when we have the votes, when we’re ready to go.”
Informal whip counts obtained by Politico on Thursday showed the Republicans were still at least two votes short of passing the bill.
The latest version of the plan released by House conservatives looked similar to the initial proposal: The Obamacare insurance mandate would be revoked, and insurance enrollees would be offered a tax refund to offset the cost of their coverage. Crucially, however, states would be allowed to opt out of protections for seniors, those with preexisting conditions, or those who don’t maintain their insurance coverage.
Multiple outlets reported last week that the White House is pressuring House leaders to get a health care plan passed. Mr Trump faces increasing scrutiny as he approaches the end of his first 100 days of office without a single major legislative win.
Asked whether he’d like to see a funding bill or health care bill passed within the week, Mr Trump bragged, "I think we'll get both."