Arizona’s Democrats sounded triumphant notes Friday after the collapse of their rivals’ efforts to undo Obamacare.
A lengthy floor debate in the U.S. House of Representatives on the American Health Care Act was suddenly canceled Friday afternoon and a vote on President Donald Trump’s signature policy shelved indefinitely.
All day, Republican lawmakers spent the session arguing that former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act was in collapse and hurt thousands of their constituents with skyrocketing costs and poor choices. They pointed out how many constituents said “thanks, but no thanks” to federal insurance and opted for tax penalties instead.
Democrats said the effort to repeal and replace the act was a poorly veiled tax break for the rich and would deny medical care to women, veterans, children, and people with disabilities. They pointed out how many constituents would be without medical coverage.
In the end, any effort to force a vote was scrubbed. Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan later conceded in a press conference that he could not bring along enough conservative supporters, who urged deeper changes to the law, without alienating moderates, who worried about bleak projections with the reforms on the table.
Democrats in the Arizona delegation seemed jubilant.
“Donald Trump just asked House Republicans to walk the plank on health care with him, and they let him take the plunge alone,” Congressman Raul Grijalva said in a prepared statement.
“While health coverage for millions of Americans is safe for now, it’s important to remember that Republican orthodoxy still views this outcome as a failure,” he added. “We can’t lose sight of the fact that the GOP just tried to cut off health care for 24 million Americans to help cover $600 billion in tax cuts to the rich.”
His freshman Democratic colleague, Congressman Tom O’Halleran, took a more measured reaction.
“The American people made their voices heard. This health care bill would have devastated our rural and tribal communities, harmed seniors, and eliminated tax credits for veterans eligible for government health care,” O’Halleran said in a prepared statement.
He said he was disappointed not just in the bill but how it was crafted. He urged Congress to be more cooperative.
“Now we must get serious about crafting a bipartisan bill that improves our health care system and brings down the costs of health care and insurance premiums,” O’Halleran said.
Republican Rep. Martha McSally, whose amendments to fund mental health were included in the now stalled bill, also sounded similar themes, while being critical of Obamacare.
“The Affordable Care Act is still failing families in Arizona, and so the mission has not changed,” McSally said in a statement. “Whatever the legislative vehicle going forward, I will continue to strive towards better health care for my constituents.”
Phoenix New Times contacted all nine of Arizona’s lawmakers, but none of the others could be immediately reached for comment.
Spokespeople for Republican Congressman David Schweikert and Democratic Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema said the lawmakers were in the air returning to Arizona and unavailable.
The others did not immediately respond.
But Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego, echoing remarks by O’Halleran and Grijalva, tweeted “#TrumpCare failed thanks to all the calls, emails, letters and activism from Americans all across the country. Thank you!”
Some progressive political groups in Arizona, such as Latino rights organization Mi Familia Vota, agreed.
“House Republicans raced to the floor with a cruel, disastrous replacement bill that would cut care to 24 million people and raise fees, while delivering billions in tax breaks, mostly for wealthy corporations and individuals. They got tripped by conservatives in their own party who blocked the plan for the wrong reason: It did not go far enough to repeal popular provisions of Obamacare,” said the group’s executive director Ben Monterroso in a statement.
He added that Obamacare greatly helped Latinos by providing access to health care.
“No politician should ever play games with life-saving programs. But that is what the White House and Congress were doing when they tried to repeal Obamacare near the seventh anniversary of its passage in order to settle an old political score,” Monterroso added.
Before the vote, Schweikert and Republican Andy Biggs issued the boldest statements of support for the Trump-Ryan overhaul.
“Seven years ago, Obamacare put Washington in control of Americans’ health care. And for seven years, Washington has been failing to deliver results. Families can’t afford their premiums, patients can’t visit the doctor they like, and fewer insurers are offering coverage options every day. With President Trump, House Republicans are taking a stand,” Schweikert said in a statement early this month.
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“I’m proud to be moving this important legislation forward with my colleagues, and look forward to delivering on our promises to the American people,” he added.
Biggs went further on Thursday, on the eve of debate.
"I cannot vote for the most recent draft of the American Health Care Act. I appreciate House Leadership’s efforts to work through the concerns I have flagged, and I have great respect for the way President Trump and his team have negotiated with Members of Congress,” Biggs said.
“I cannot support anything less than a clean repeal of Obamacare."