The bill to replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as it is known, passed the US House of Representatives on Thursday, handing President Donald Trump his first major legislative victory and the Republican party a near-term victory with the promise of more.
But for replacement bill, the American Health Care Act, to become a law, it still needs to pass the Senate, where it could run into some Democrats who will oppose it in any shape as well as unhappy Republicans, and there are no guarantees it will complete the course.
The Bill passed the House narrowly as expected but pass it did, much to the obvious relief and jubilation of a new administration hungry for victories and a Republican party that failed to rally its own members.
“Welcome to the beginning of the end of Obamacare,” Vice President Mike Pence declared, opening an event at the White House to mark to mark the milestone attended by a large number of party’s lawmakers bussed over from Capitol Hill after the vote.
Trump, who had been working the phone and Twitter to the last minute before the vote to rally Republicans in danger of straying from the flock, was overjoyed and ran his own version of a victory lap, reminding everyone who he was.
“Coming from a different world and only being a politician for a short period of time — how am I doing?” he asked a partisan crowd of supporters and officials gathered at the immaculately manicured Rose Garden on an unseasonably cool afternoon.
“Am I doing okay?” he asked. “I’m President. Hey, I’m President. Can you believe it? Right?” As people applauded, he added, “I don’t know, it’s — I thought you needed a little bit more time. They always told me, more time. But we didn’t.”
Trump had reason to celebrate, coming after the embarrassing defeat of the previous attempt that had brought under harsh glare his famed deal-making skills. The previous bill was withdrawn because the leadership wasn’t sure it had the votes, of its own members.
As Republicans savoured their victory — with beer carted in large numbers as the vote drew to a close — critics pointed to the long and arduous road ahead for the new legislation to end in enactment, replacing, in their view, the despised Obamacare.
Many Republican senators signalled their reservations in the immediate aftermath — or afterglow — of the House vote. “A bill — finalised yesterday, has not been scored, amendments not allowed, and 3 hours final debate — should be viewed with caution,” Lindsey Graham, a senior senator from South Carolina tweeted.
The observation about not being score was a reference to the practice of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), a non-partisan body, scoring legislations before congress for intended and unintended consequences in tangible and intangible terms.
Republicans did not wait for the CBO score and raced ahead with their bill for reasons not explained yet — it had said about the earlier bill that it would leave 24 million Americans without healthcare insurance over a period of 10 years.
The new bill will undergo changes in the senate, by Republicans who don’t like everything their colleagues from the House have sent to them to consider and pass. And there are no guarantees the law will clear the upper chamber.