Republican leaders on Friday abruptly pulled their troubled health care overhaul bill off the House floor just moments before a vote, signalling a major political defeat for the US President Donald Trump.
House Speaker Paul Ryan withdrew the legislation after Trump called him and asked him to halt debate without a vote, according to Ryan’s spokeswoman AshLee Strong.
Just a day earlier, Trump had demanded a House vote and said if the measure lost, he would move on to other issues.
TRT World's Harry Horton has the latest from Washington.
Shortage of votes
Republican leaders pulled the legislation due to a shortage of votes despite desperate lobbying by the White House and its allies in Congress.
They had planned a vote on the measure after Trump cut off negotiations with Republicans who had balked at the plan and issued an ultimatum to vote on Friday, win or lose.
Republican moderates as well as the most conservative lawmakers had objected to the legislation. The White House and House leaders were unable to come up with a plan that satisfied both moderates and conservatives.
Amid a chaotic scramble for votes, House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, who has championed the bill, met with Trump at the White House before the bill was pulled from the House floor after hours of debate.
Ryan said he recommended that the legislation be withdrawn from the House floor because he did not have the votes to pass it, and that Trump agreed.
'Disappointing day for us'
Friday's events cast doubt on whether Ryan could get major legislation approved by fractious Republican lawmakers.
"I will not sugarcoat this. This is a disappointing day for us," Ryan said at a news conference, adding that his fellow Republicans are experiencing what he called "growing pains" transitioning from an opposition party to a governing party.
"Doing big things is hard," Ryan added, noting that he got close but failed to muster the 216 votes needed to pass it.
Ryan said he did not know what the next steps would be on healthcare, but called Obamacare so flawed that it would be hard to prop up.
Trump told the Washington Post the healthcare bill would not be coming up again in the near future and that he wanted to see if Democrats who uniformly objected to the Republican plan would come to him to work on healthcare legislation, a Washington Post reporter said on MSNBC.
Obamacare will remain in place
Without the bill's passage in Congress, Democratic former President Barack Obama's signature domestic policy achievement, the 2010 Affordable Care Act — known as Obamacare — would remain in place despite seven years of Republican promises to dismantle it.
Repealing and replacing Obamacare was a top campaign promise by Trump in the 2016 presidential election, as well as by most Republican candidates, "from dog-catcher on up," as White House spokesman Sean Spicer put it during a briefing on Friday.
The House failure to pass the measure called into question Trump's ability to get other key parts of his agenda, including tax cuts and a boost in infrastructure spending, through a Congress controlled by his own party.
News that the bill had been pulled before a final vote was greeted initially with a small sigh of relief by US equity investors, who earlier in the week had been fretful that an outright defeat would damage Trump's other priorities, such as tax cuts and infrastructure spending.