Stunned by the surprise rejection of a bare bones Senate health care bill, Republicans in the House vowed on Friday to keep pressing for action on legislation to overhaul the Obama health law, urging Senate leaders not to give up, but still struggling to figure out the magic formula on a bill that can gain a majority in both houses of Congress.
“I am disappointed and frustrated, but we should not give up,” Speaker Paul Ryan said in a written statement issued after what was described as a somber closed door meeting with House Republicans, just hours after the Senate had run aground on a GOP “skinny” health bill.
“I encourage the Senate to continue working toward a real solution that keeps our promise,” Ryan said of the GOP campaign vow to repeal and replace the Obama health law.
While Ryan didn’t point the finger of blame at Senate Republicans, other GOP lawmakers did.
“At some point, the Senate is going to have to figure out how to make things work over there,” said Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA).
“They need to figure out how to become more functional,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK).
“It’s unacceptable,” said Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC). “We’ve got to get this done.”
“It was a huge disappointment, I stayed up most of the night,” said Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-TX).
“It’s painful, it’s easy to feel upset,” said Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH). But I’m optimistic they’re going to find a way to do something.”
The drama involving Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) played out after midnight on the Senate floor, as Vice President Mike Pence tried in vain to swing McCain behind a ‘skinny’ GOP health bill, the details of which had only been made public some two hours earlier.
Pence, who was at the Senate with the hope of breaking a 50-50 tie vote, instead found himself in a last ditch effort to save the streamlined plan, which had become a last resort for GOP leaders, desperately trying to pass anything.
When the roll of Senators was being called, McCain was just off the Senate floor, and did not answer his name. Moments later, he emerged, strode to the desk, and gave a thumbs down, bringing an audible gasp from the Senate floor.
Democrats used the vote to call for bipartisanship on health care, but there has been precious little of that from either party over the last seven years, and there were no predictions of a sudden outbreak of political cooperation on the issue.
“Sometimes you need a little spark,” Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer said on Friday, hoping that McCain’s vote will change the dynamic on health care.
“The only way we get major things done in America, in the Congress and particular in the Senate is bipartisan,” Schumer said.
As for President Trump, he spent Friday on Twitter demanding changes to the rules of the Senate, expressing frustration that much of his agenda will need 60 votes to get around a possible filibuster.
“If Republicans are going to pass great future legislation in the Senate, they must immediately go to a 51 vote majority, not senseless 60,” the President tweeted.
But on health care, Mr. Trump’s plan only needed a majority, as filibusters are not allowed under the expedited rules of budget reconciliation.
The other reality in the Senate is that Republican leaders aren’t interested in getting rid of the filibuster, knowing that one day the Democrats will be in power, and ready to use that.