To summarize Friday's Congressional rollercoaster, the pundits and the White House were wrong, and the online betting markets were right.
Following a day of drama in Congress yesterday, Friday was another nail-biter until the last moment, and after Trump's Thursday ultimatum failed to yield more "yes" votes, the embattled bill seeking to replace major parts of Obamacare was yanked Friday from the floor of the House.
As a result, Trump suffered a second consecutive blow as opposition from within his own party forced Republican leaders to cancel a vote on healthcare reform for the second time, casting doubt on the president’s ability to deliver on other priorities.
The withdrawal pointed to Trump's failure to charm republicans in the last minute, raising questions about whether he could unify Republicans behind his pro-growth legislative goals of tax reform and infrastructure spending.
NBC News reported that the President Donald Trump asked House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., to pull the bill. A source told NBC that Ryan during visit to Trump at the White House earlier Friday afternoon had "pleaded to pull" the bill after telling the president that the GOP leaders had failed to convince enough House Republicans to support the bill.
Trump personally told Washington Post reporter Robert Costa about the move to avoid an embarrassing loss in the House during a phone call, Costa tweeted. "We just pulled it," Trump reportedly said to Costa.
President Trump just called me. Still on phone.— Robert Costa (@costareports) March 24, 2017
"We just pulled it," he tells me.
A large number of GOP House members had declared their opposition to the bill since Thursday night. It was the second time in less than 30 hours that Republicans postponed a scheduled House vote on the American Health Care Act. Republicans could afford to lose at most 22 members of their caucus in the vote. But as of Friday afternoon, there were 34 GOP House member publicly opposing the bill.
Ryan visited Donald Trump at the White House at around 1 p.m. to inform him of the shortfall in support.
The second delay was another humiliating setback for GOP leaders and Trump, who had thrown his weight behind the bill.
Trump on Thursday night demanded that the House vote on the plan on Friday, and said he would not agree to change the bill further than he already had in an effort to persuade wavering Republicans to back it.
Shortly after the president drew that line in the sand, GOP leaders amended the bill further to allow states, as opposed to the federal government, to mandate what essential health benefits have to be part of all insurance plans.
But as was the case on Thursday, GOP leaders knew Friday that if the vote occurred as scheduled, the bill would be defeated. The problem those leaders face is not from Democrats, who hold a minority of 193 seats in the House, and who were all expected to vote against the bill.
Ultimately, and this may be the real take home message, the Freedom Caucus demonstrated it is more powerful than Trump as of this moment. Which, incidentally, means it is time to start getting very nervous about the upcoming debt ceiling negotiation, in which the Freedom Caucus will likely get its way.
Finally, with over half a trillion in budget cuts now out of the picture, Trump may be able to proceed to his tax reform, but he will have about $500 billion in potential tax cuts to work with now that repeal of Obamacare is indefinitely delayed.
As for the humiliated Paul Ryan, he just wants to move on... for obvious reasons.
Lawmakers say Paul Ryan says "we are done with the subject. We are moving on," per @HouseInSession— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) March 24, 2017
* * *
Update 7: Finally, Trump capped off the failed process with the following comments to the press saying, among other things, that the best thing Republcans can do now is simply pursue tax reform while Obamacare implodes naturally.
- TRUMP SAYS IN END WOULD'VE BEEN 10 VOTES SHORT, MAYBE CLOSER
- TRUMP TO NYT:WHEN OBAMACARE `EXPLODES' DEMS MAY BE OPEN TO DEAL
- TRUMP SAYS BEST THING WE CAN DO IS LET OBAMACARE EXPLODE
- TRUMP: WOULD BE `TOTALLY OPEN' TO DEM HELP ON NEW HEALTH BILL
- TRUMP: NOW GOING FOR TAX REFORM, WHICH I'VE ALWAYS LIKED
- TRUMP: I'M NOT BETRAYED, I'M DISAPPOINTED, IT WAS IN OUR GRASP
- TRUMP: SPEAKER PAUL RYAN WORKED VERY HARD
* * *
Update 6: Trump bluffed... and failed, and moments ago House Republicans unable to find enough votes in support of the bill, have pulled today's vote:
- TRUMP ASKED U.S. HOUSE LEADERS TO CANCEL VOTE ON REPUBLICAN HEALTHCARE BILL - HOUSE LEADERSHIP AIDE
- TRUMP SAID TO TELL WASH. POST JUST PULLED HEALTH CARE BILL
- TRUMP SAYS "WE JUST PULLED IT"- WASHINGTON POST REPORTER IN TWEET
- REPUBLICAN LEADERS POSTPONE VOTE ON HEALTHCARE BILL
- TRUMP SAID TO TELL WASH. POST `I DON'T BLAME PAUL' RYAN
* * *
Update 5: With the health bill vote set to take place around 4pm, moments ago NBC reported that ahead of the vote the Republican conference will hold a closed-door meeting, perhaps to try and cobble together a last minute deal even as most whip count show at least 30 republicans voting against the deal.
- HOUSE REPUBLICANS TO HOLD CLOSED-DOOR MEETING SOON: NBC
* * *
Update 4: After a series of conflicting headlines earlier, CNN is now reporting that Paul Ryan has made the trip to the White House to inform Trump: "We don't have the votes."
* * *
Update 3: Moments ago new headlines surfaced that Paul Ryan was headed to the White House to brief President Trump on where the Healthcare legislation currently stands. And, in an exact repeat of the mass confusion that dominated the press yesterday, headlines continue to be completely contradictory and only serve to further the chaos.
On the one side, Bloomberg is reporting that GOP leaders are not confident they have the votes with one House aide even admitted that Republican discussions have morphed from trying to whip votes to trying to figure out what to do after the bill fails.
GOP LEADERS NOT CONFIDENT THEY HAVE VOTES TO PASS HEALTH BILL
HOUSE LEADERS MULLING NEXT STEPS IF HEALTH BILL FAILS: AIDE
And Rep. Gohmert tweeted there's a "good chance vote may be postponed."
Good chance vote may be postponed. Leadership hiding likely more NON-Freedom Caucus No votes than Freedom Caucus No votes.— Louie Gohmert (@replouiegohmert) March 24, 2017
That said, Reuters subsequently released a statement from Rep. Mullin saying that things are looking up for the late afternoon healthcare vote.
REP MULLIN: "WE'RE TRENDING YES ON THE VOTE": RTRS
Meanwhile, The Hill's latest whip list suggests that the number of Republican 'no' votes is actually growing rather than shrinking and currently stands at 34.
In reality, despite all the jawboning, we suspect that no one will really know how this thing is going play out until the votes are counted later today.
* * *
Update 2: The House has just passed a procedural vote by a margin of 230 - 194 which now clears the path for 4 hours of floor debate on the healthcare bill which will be followed by a vote later this afternoon on the legislation. Update per The Hill:
Six Republicans voted against the rule, an unusually high number. Lawmakers typically do not break ranks on procedural votes, which are viewed as a referendum on how leadership is managing the floor.
Among the Republicans who voted against the rule were Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), Thomas Massie (Ky.) and Walter Jones (N.C.). All three voted Thursday night against invoking what is known as "martial law" rule to speed the legislation to the floor.
Lawmakers typically stick with their party on the rules votes even if they plan to vote against the underlying legislation.
The rule stipulates that floor debate on the healthcare legislation will last four hours, with time equally divided between Republicans and Democrats.
That sets up a likely vote around 4 p.m. or 5 p.m.
Meanwhile, The Hill’s latest whip list still shows around 30 Republicans planning to vote against the bill which is more than the maximum of 22 defections GOP leaders can afford and have the bill still pass.
Finally, we would be remiss if we didn't share this apparent nervous break down from Rosa DeLauro during the procedural debate:
* * *
Update 1: As largely expected, the House Rules Committee has just signed off on the GOP’s ObamaCare repeal plan, with a 9-3 vote, which clears the path for a showdown vote later today. The panel was the bill’s final stop before heading for a floor vote.
As of now, the plan is to begin debate on the healthcare bill at 10AM EST. There is expected to be a 1 hour debate on rules and then 4 hours of general debate which sets the House up for a procedural vote around 11:15 am EST and a final vote expected around 4.45 pm.
* * *
Yesterday was undoubtedly a debacle of a day for Republicans which ultimately culminated with the failure of the Trump administration and Paul Ryan to secure a sufficient number of votes from the House Freedom Caucus to pass their healthcare bill (we covered the chaos here). And after the day of misery, team Trump decided that they would rather not continue the political charade in perpetuity and instead decided to offer conservatives in the House an ultimatum: vote tomorrow (i.e. today) or "I'm done with healthcare."
Which, of course, would seem to be a negotiating tactic taken directly for The Art of the Deal 101:
“The worst thing you can possibly do in a deal is seem desperate to make it.” - The Art of the Deal— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 7, 2013
Meanwhile, the Associated Press seemed to sum up the gravity of today's vote the best, referring to it simply as a "gamble with monumental political stakes."
"In a gamble with monumental political stakes, Republicans set course for a climactic House vote on their health care overhaul after President Donald Trump claimed he was finished negotiating with GOP holdouts and determined to pursue the rest of his agenda, win or lose."
With all that said, per Fox News, after a few procedural moves, the House will likely vote on Trumpcare sometime in the mid-to-late afternoon with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) predicting that the vote will wrap up by 4:30 or 5 p.m. ET.
As we pointed out yesterday, the TrumpCare vote is the first high-stakes political battle of Trump's Presidency and pits Trump against the more conservative elements of the Republican Party. For Trump, failure to pass healthcare reform would be a major blow as it was a signature component of his campaign and could signal that he will face an uphill battle against the Freedom Caucus to implement other policy initiatives. For conservatives, they must choose between supporting their party and a bill that has been dubbed "Obamacare-lite" at the risk of alienating powerful conservative funders, like the Koch Brothers and their various Super PACs, which got them elected in the first place.
Meanwhile, "round-the-clock" negotiations continue as the White House and mainstream Republicans attempt to sway some last minute votes.
Meanwhile, Trump met inside the Cabinet room with the Freedom caucus to try and rally conservatives to the cause. He also tweeted, urging supporters to call their representatives to back the bill.
A senior administration official told Fox News after the meeting with Trump and the conservative group that there was a deal in the works, but that it was not yet finalized. A source from the Freedom Caucus later said there wasn't yet a deal.
"I would say progress is being made, and that progress should be applauded with the efforts by the White House to deliver on a campaign promise, and to lower premiums for every American from coast to coast and in between," Meadows said. He also called Trump's involvement "unparalleled in the history of our country."
And while it's almost impossible to predict how today's vote will turn out, Goldman Sachs is pegging the chances of success at 60%.
The House vote on the American Health Care Act (AHCA) has been delayed due to a lack of support. Our subjective odds of passage in the House before the upcoming two-week congressional recess, which begins April 7, are 60%. This is slightly lower than our last estimate, in part because there appears to be somewhat greater-than-expected opposition among centrist Republicans, in addition to the well-known opposition among members of the conservative "Freedom Caucus"
Meanwhile, Trump started his lobbying efforts early on twitter.
After seven horrible years of ObamaCare (skyrocketing premiums & deductibles, bad healthcare), this is finally your chance for a great plan!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 24, 2017
The irony is that the Freedom Caucus, which is very pro-life and against Planned Parenthood, allows P.P. to continue if they stop this plan!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 24, 2017
So, grab your popcorn and flip on C-SPAN...should be a fun Friday.