Trump Praises Ryan on Health as Aides Privately Blame the SpeakerBy and
Ryan ‘worked very, very hard,’ Trump said after bill pulled
Republican legislation to alter Obamacare is yanked in House
In public, President Donald Trump is standing by House Speaker Paul Ryan over the failed Obamacare replacement bill.
“I like Speaker Ryan; he worked very, very hard,” Trump said in the Oval Office after Ryan on Friday pulled the legislation from the House floor for lack of support. Instead, the president pinned the responsibility on Democrats.
Behind the scenes, though, the president’s aides blame Ryan for the bill’s embarrassing defeat, which stymied a Republican goal for more than seven years, a senior administration official said.
Asked whether Trump, Ryan, or the Freedom Caucus chairman, North Carolina Republican Mark Meadows, would be most to blame if the bill fails, the administration official said Ryan. The official insisted on anonymity to discuss internal White House deliberations.
Ryan inoculated himself somewhat from bearing sole blame for the bill’s failure; in the middle of the day Friday, he went to the White House to tell Trump personally that there weren’t enough votes. Later, Ryan recommended the bill be pulled from the floor and Trump agreed.
Several House Republicans including the chairman of the Appropriations Committee announced in the morning that they would vote against the measure, making its prospects grim.
Trump and his aides were heavily invested in the legislation. On Thursday, Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, took the unusual step of traveling to Capitol Hill to deliver an ultimatum: take a vote on Friday, win or lose. Ryan had sought to carefully build a majority for the bill, and it would be highly unusual for him to call the vote without knowing if it would pass.
Ryan had little choice but go along with the administration’s gambit.
Trump said Friday at the White House, before the legislation was pulled, that Ryan shouldn’t lose his job if the bill went down. He also said "no" when asked if the bill had been rushed or if he regretted pursuing a replacement of the Affordable Care Act ahead of other priorities such as a tax overhaul.
Democrats were to blame for the bill’s failure because they didn’t support the legislation, Trump said afterward. The bill was written and introduced with no Democratic input.
“I think the real losers are Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer,” Trump said, referring to the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate. “Because now they own it, they 100 percent own it.”
A senior Republican aide said that a Trump tweet on Friday indicated he would blame the Freedom Caucus for the bill’s failure. Ryan has been in close contact throughout the bill’s development and consideration, and both politicians understood that they had much at stake in the legislation, the aide said, calling the bill the most conservative version of an Obamacare repeal that could pass Congress.
“The president gave his all in this effort,” Ryan said at a news conference after pulling the bill. “He did everything he possibly could to help people see the opportunity we had with this bill. He’s really been fantastic.”
Several Trump associates have already laid groundwork to blame the speaker, who butted heads with Trump repeatedly before his election.
“I think Paul Ryan did a major disservice to President Trump, I think the president was extremely courageous in taking on health care and trusted others to come through with a program he could sign off on,” Chris Ruddy, chief executive officer of Newsmax and a long-time friend of Trump’s, said in an interview last week. “The President had confidence Paul Ryan would come up with a good plan and to me, it is disappointing.”
A Trump associate who requested anonymity to discuss the president’s views on the matter said that White House chief of staff Reince Priebus may also be imperiled. A senior White House official, who also requested anonymity, disputed that characterization and insisted that Priebus was not in trouble, and separately the chief of staff was added as a guest on “Fox News Sunday.”
Trump’s core supporters regarded Ryan as at best unimportant during the presidential campaign and at worst a poster child for the sort of establishment, scripted politician they loathed.
Still, Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and top White House aides had been working closely with Ryan on a health bill since the election and were heavily involved in negotiations to reach a deal, according to a senior Republican aide. That leaves questions about whether they’ll be able to cooperate to pull the party together on other tough issues, crucially a tax overhaul that Trump has said is a personal priority.
— With assistance by Anna Edgerton