Failure on healthcare reform is a major defeat for Republicans

Latest delay raises questions about whether Trump can follow through on campaign promises

Senate majority leader Senator Mitch McConnell:  With four Republicans now lined up against  McConnell’s health overhaul, the plan has flatlined in the 100-member chamber.  Photograph:  AFP/Getty Images

Senate majority leader Senator Mitch McConnell: With four Republicans now lined up against McConnell’s health overhaul, the plan has flatlined in the 100-member chamber. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

 

It said a multitude that US president Donald Trump was having dinner in the White House with seven Republican senators on Monday night when the news emerged that two senators were withdrawing support for the latest healthcare proposal.

Like everyone else, the White House was blindsided by the statements from Republican senators Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas announcing their opposition to the plan.

Neither man had been invited to the White House dinner at which Mr Trump was attempting to secure conservative Republican support for the latest attempt at repealing and replacing Obamacare.

In fact, throughout the day the two Republican rebels had been coordinating their approach to ensure that one person would not be accused of tilting the balance against the Senate healthcare reform bill.

Over the last few weeks tensions have been surfacing in Washington over the level of engagement by the White House with the Republican healthcare plan.

While Mr Trump did throw some weight behind the House version which was passed in May, he has left the Senate to its own devices, even as it became apparent that senate majority leader Mitch McConnell was facing increasing challenges in keeping the conservative and moderate arms of the Republican party happy.

Last-ditch effort

A last-ditch effort saw the Trump administration dispatch vice-president Mike Pence, health secretary Tom Price and budget director Mick Mulvaney to the annual governors’ conference in Rhode Island at the weekend to rally sceptical governors.

Even then it was becoming apparent that the White House was out of the loop.

 Press secretary Sean Spicer defended the president on Monday, telling journalists: “the president is going to be engaged, he’s going to get this done.”

He added that there was “no one better than Mitch Mc Connell” on knowing “when and how” to make this bill successful. “The president will do whatever he has to to support his efforts.”

But by Monday night it was too late.

Running out of options

Throughout Tuesday morning there had been hope that Mr Mc Connell’s plan B – repealing Obamacare immediately and replacing it later– could be a solution. But by lunchtime the plan appeared dead in the water.

Mr Trump also raised the ire of many by suggesting that Obamacare should “fail” and then Republicans could rewrite it, as he rejected “ownership” of the issue.

With the Republican party running out of options, it is now becoming increasingly likely that healthcare reform will be delayed. The failure of Republicans to deliver on healthcare reform after seven years of criticising Obamacare marks a major failure for the party and the president. It also raises more serious questions about whether Mr Trump can really follow through on any of the substantive promises he made on the campaign trail.

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