Although Republicans have been vowing to repeal Obamacare since it was signed into law seven years ago, the failure of the American Health Care Act to reach the House floor for a vote Friday was a particular setback to House Speaker Paul Ryan, who was spearheading the legislation and the vote count.
The House Speaker was visibly disappointed in remarks he made after the bill was withdrawn, and indicated that he may need to reach more compromises in future legislation.
"Ultimately," he said, "this all kind of comes down to a choice. Are all of us willing to give a little to get something done?"
Here is a full transcript of Ryan's remarks.
"You've all heard me say this before. Moving from an opposition party to a governing party comes with growing pains. And, well, we're feeling those growing pains today. We came really close today but we came up short. I spoke to the president just a little while ago. I told him that the best thing I think to do is to pull this bill and he agreed with that decision.
I will not sugarcoat this, this is a disappointing day for us. Doing big things is hard. All of us. All of us, myself included, we will need time to reflect on how we got to this moment, what we could have done to do it better. Ultimately, this all kind of comes down to a choice. Are all of us willing to give a little to get something done?
Are we willing to say yes to the good, the very good, even if it's not the perfect? Because if we're willing to do that, we still have such an incredible opportunity in front of us. There remains so much that we can do to help improve people's lives and we will. Because that's - I got to tell you, that's why I'm here. And I know it's why every member of this conference is here; to make this a better country.
We want American families to feel more confident in their - in life. We want the next generation to know that yes, the best days of this country are still ahead of us. I'm really proud of the bill that we produced. It would make a dramatic improvement in our healthcare system and provide relief by people hurting under Obamacare. And what's probably most troubling is the worst is yet to come with Obamacare.
I'm also proud of the long, inclusive, member-driven process that we had. Any member who wanted to engage constructively to offer ideas to improve this bill, they could. And I want to thank so many members who helped make this bill better. A lot of our members put a lot of hard work into this. I also want to thank the president. I want to thank the vice president.
I want to thank Tom Price, Mick Mulvaney, and the entire White House team. The president gave his all in this effort. He did everything he possibly could to help people see the opportunity that we had with this bill. He's really been fantastic. Still, we got to do better and we will. I absolutely believe that. This is a setback, no two ways about it. But it is not the end of the story.
Because I know that every man and woman in this conference is now motivated more than ever to step up our game, to deliver on our promises.
I know that everyone is committed to seizing this incredible opportunity we have, and I sure am.
QUESTION: (Mr. Speaker, two questions on healthcare actually. One is you talked about real people. Now, you've got a law on the books the core (ph) (inaudible), that you guys don't want it, the White House doesn't like. But it's gonna be the law for diversity of the country. Do you plan to try to help it along and prop it? Or are you going to just let with wither...
RYAN: Yeah, that's the problem. I -- I worried -- the question is -- is -- is we've kinda prop it all along and -- and hesitate (ph)...
QUESTION: Trying to prop it up?
RYAN: It -- it's so fundamentally flawed, I don't know that that is possible. What we're really worried about is -- and you've heard me say this all along -- is the coming premium increases that are coming with a death spiral in the healthcare system. That is my big concern.
We just didn't quite get consensus today. What -- what -- what we have is a member-driven process to try and get consensus.
We came very close, but we did not get that consensus. That's why I thought the wisest thing to do is not -- not proceed with the vote, but to pull the bill and -- and -- and see what we can do. But I don't think the law, as it is fashioned or anything close to it, is really going to be able to -- to survive.
QUESTION: But will you work on legislation now to try to cut (ph) the gaps?
RYAN: Yeah, we'll see. We're gonna go back and figure out what -- what -- what the next steps are. Yeah?
QUESTION: Can you explain if it is the conservatives of the Freedom Caucus that effectively drove out you predecessor John Boehner? Are they responsible for the defeat here today?
RYAN: Well, I don't want to cast blame. It -- there is a block of -- of no votes that we had that -- that -- that is why this didn't pass. They were a sufficient number of votes that prevented it from passing and they didn't change their votes.
We were close. Some of the members of that caucus were voting with us, but not enough were. And therefore -- and I met with their chairman earlier today, and he -- he made it clear to me that -- that the votes weren't gonna be there from their team. And -- and that -- that was sufficient to provide the votes -- the balance to not have this bill pass.
QUESTION: ...concerned with them? Mr. Speaker, you all swept the House, won the majority with a promise to repeal Obamacare.
The majority in the Senate with a promise to repeal (ph) Obamacare. The White House with the promise in repeal Obamacare. How do you go home to your constituents and send all of your members home to their constituents saying you know what, it's not even 100 into the administration? Sorry folks, we just can't figure it out.
RYAN: Diane (ph), it's a really good question. I wish I had a better answer for you. I -- I really believe that Obamacare is a law that is collapsing, it's hurting families, it's not working. It was designed in a fundamentally flawed way.
We believe this bill is the best way to go, but we just didn't quite get the consensus to get there.
QUESTION: Two questions for you, if you don't mind. The one, the bottom line is Obamacare right now remains the law of the land. Is that going to change in 2017?
RYAN: Yeah, I don't know what else to say other than Obamacare's the law of the land. It's gonna remain the law of the land until it's replaced. We did not have quite the votes to replace this law.
And so, yeah, we're gonna be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future. I don't know how long it's gonna take us to replace this law.
My worry is Obamacare is -- is gonna be getting even worse. Actually, I think we were probably doing the Democrats a favor. I think we are doing the architects of Obama a favor by passing this law before it gets even worse.
Well, I guess that favor's not going to be given to them and it's gonna get worse. And so, I don't think the architects of Obamacare -- I'm sure they may be pleased right now. But when they see how bad this thing gets, they said all the projections were being told by -- by the plans that are participating in Obamacare. I don't think they're gonna like that either.
Look, five states you got one plan left, one choice. Over a third of the counties in America, one plan left. And the kinds of projections we're being told from the people providing health insurance to these people in plans, it's gonna get even worse.
And so, I don't think the architects of Obamacare envisioned this future. It's certainly not one we want for the American people. And I wish we had the kind of consensus we needed to bring a bill to the floor to pass and replace it but we just don't have that right now.
QUESTION: My second question speaker, Mr. Speaker, if you don't mind...
QUESTION: What about -- what...
RYAN: Chad (ph)?
QUESTION: Thank you. What about, though, the political capital that was burned through? You have to keep the government open in about five weeks, the debt ceiling, you still wanna do tax reform.
I know you say that this is -- this -- this part was never gonna get to into that part. How much capital did you burn on this today? And how does that potentially injure those other bills?
RYAN: I think our members know we've did everything we could to get consensus. This is how governing works when you're in the majority.
We need to get 216 people to agree with each other to write legislation, not 210, not 215. We need 216 people in the House to agree with each other on how to write a piece of legislation.
We didn't have 216 people. We were close, but we did not have 216 people.
And that's how legislating works. And so, now we're going to move on with the rest of our agenda because we have big ambitious plans to improve peoples' lives in this country. We want to secure the border, we want to rebuild our military, we want to get the deficit under control, we want infrastructure and we want tax reform.
The last question you asked me about tax reform, Chad. Yes, this does make tax reform more difficult, but it does not in any way make it impossible.
We will proceed with tax reform. We will continue with tax reform. That's an issue I know...
quite a bit about. I used to run that committee. I spoke with the president, the treasury secretary and his economic advisers earlier today about tax reform. So we are going to proceed with tax reform. This makes it clearly more -- you know how the numbers work. It's about a trillion dollars. That just means the Obamacare taxes stay with Obamacare. We're going to fix the rest of the tax code.
QUESTION: You don't think what is passed is (inaudible), that portends bad things for (inaudible)?
RYAN: I don't think so. I don't think this is prologue for other future things, because members realize there are other parts of our agenda that people have even more agreement on, on what to achieve. We have even more agreement on the need and the nature of tax reform on funding the government, on rebuilding the military, on securing the border. This issue had a big difference of opinion not whether we should repeal and replace Obamacare, but just how we should replace it. And that is the growing pains of governing.
We were a 10-year opposition party, where being against things was easy to do. You just had to be against it. And now in three months' time we tried to go to a governing party where we actually had to get 216 people to agree with each other on how we do things and we weren't just quite there today. We will get there, but we weren't there today.
QUESTION: Anna Anderson (ph) from Bloomberg.
I was hoping you could kind of move ahead with things two and three, HHS phase two and hear (ph) what phase three legislation, and also if you can just talk about how the conference is doing right now.
RYAN: The conference is not done. The conference is disappointed. The conference -- we were on the cusp of fulfilling a promise that we made. We were on the cusp of achieving an ambition we've all had for seven years, and we came a little short. We were close, but not quite there.
On your other issues, this bill would have made what we call phase two much, much better. Nevertheless, I think there are some things that the secretary of HHS can do to try and sort of stabilize things, but really we need this bill to make it better.
For instance, risk pools, we believe the smarter way to help people with preexisting conditions get affordable coverage while bringing down the health care costs for everybody else is through re- insurance risk or risk-sharing pools which this bill supplied for the states. That is not now going to happen, and therefore he won't be able to deploy that policy tool that we think is better than Obamacare.
So, we do lose a lot of the tools we wanted to help improve people's lives and bring down health care costs in this country.
Thank you very much.