WASHINGTON — There were plenty of ominous signs Friday that the House GOP did not have the votes to pass its health care overhaul, but that didn’t make anything less dramatic shortly after 3:30 p.m., when the news was broken to Republican lawmakers that their effort to overhaul Obamacare had collapsed.
The looks on the faces of many congressmen coming out of a closed-door meeting in the bowels of the U.S. Capitol was nothing short of shell-shocked. Early reaction from lawmakers ranged from the hopeful to the upset.
“The game’s not over,” Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, insisted. “We’re taking a half time right here to go home, get some rest, come back and continue on.”
“It’s never going to happen,” Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., said five minutes earlier.
Some were willing to pin the blame of the bill’s collapse on the hard-line members of the House Freedom Caucus, the main group of holdouts. Many members of the conservative group wouldn’t bite on the legislation, even after leaders made eleventh-hour changes Thursday to pull back on Obamacare’s “essential health benefits,” one of their key asks.
“I guess people who like Obamacare can thank the Freedom Caucus,” Rep. Austin Scott, R-Tifton, said minutes after the decision to pull the legislation was announced. “People who wanted us to replace it should know that the majority of us were trying to do the right thing and get a new piece of legislation passed.”
Rep. Doug Collins, a member of the House leadership team, also didn’t hold back.
“Because I am convinced that human life and dignity deserve fierce protection under the law, I am unable to understand how many of my colleagues allowed political myopia to prevent them from supporting the opportunity to defund America’s largest abortion peddler,” the Gainesville Republican said.
By our tally, eight of Georgia’s nine House Republicans were planning to vote for the legislation. The lone critic was Jody Hice of Monroe, Georgia’s only Freedom Caucus member. He had rejected earlier versions of the bill, but his position on its final incarnation was unknown.
After the legislation was shelved, Hice thanked Ryan and the White House for being willing to negotiate.
“This is all part of the legislative process and taking the time to do it right will ultimately lead us to a good place — the full repeal of Obamacare in favor of market-oriented health care solutions that benefit all Americans,” he said in a statement.
Democrats, bruised at the polls after years of GOP batterings on the Affordable Care Act, cheered the news. They had been universally opposed to the measure.
“Now that this dangerous legislation has been pulled from House consideration, I am hopeful that we can instead come together to improve on the progress we have made with the Affordable Care Act,” Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, said.
In an impassioned speech on the House floor earlier Friday, Atlanta Democrat John Lewis called the legislation a “shame” and a “disgrace.”
“For what does it profit this body to pass this bill and lose our soul?” he said.
Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville, was in more of an introspective mood when we caught up with him on Friday afternoon.
“I think everybody’s emotions are pretty high right now,” he said. “I put this down as a missed opportunity. But the question isn’t ‘what did we disagree about this time around.’ The question is what do we do to learn from this experience. We don’t know what that answer is now.”