WASHINGTON (AP) — Declaring it “an unbelievable victory,” President Donald Trump delayed his first trip home to New York as president to celebrate House passage Thursday of legislation undoing much of former President Barack Obama’s health law, a top campaign promise and a long-sought GOP goal.
Trump celebrated with jubilant Republicans during a hastily arranged appearance in the Rose Garden, where they exulted in the passage of their replacement health care bill, which squeaked through the House by a vote of 217-213.
Trump saluted the bill as “a great plan and I think it will get even better,” saying more than once — “Make no mistake: this is a repeal and replace of Obamacare.”
Republicans bused in from Capitol Hill for the victory lap, an unusually early celebration for the passage of a bill through just one house of Congress. The legislation, which faces sharp Democratic opposition, now heads to the Senate where it faces an uncertain fate.
But Trump said he was “so confident” that the measure would pass the Senate and vowed that premiums and deductibles would come down.
“People are suffering so badly with the ravages of Obamacare,” said Trump, whose West Wing staff was eager for the appearance of a victory after an uneven first 100 days in office. A joyous Trump at one point even turned to the representatives lined up behind him and, suggesting the victory was especially impressive for a novice politician, exclaimed “Hey, I’m president! I’m president! Can you believe it?!”
House leaders came through with the votes to give Trump a major political win more than a month after Republicans’ first attempt to pass a health care bill went down in a humiliating defeat. House Speaker Paul Ryan, whose leadership was questioned when the first bill failed, cautioned that passage was “just one step but an important step” and suggested that the “stakes are just too high” for the bill to fail in the Senate.
Known as the American Healthcare Act, the bill has yet to receive a price tag from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office and is opposed by a number of physician and health care groups, including the American Medical Association, amid concerns it could strip millions of Americans of their coverage, including those with pre-existing medical conditions.
The developments in Washington pushed back Trump’s first-time meeting with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull by several hours. The leaders also were to speak at a New York dinner commemorating the 75th anniversary of an important World War II battle.
Trump and Turnbull spoke by telephone earlier Thursday and were looking forward to meeting later, the White House said.
Trump, a native New Yorker, only received 18 percent of the vote in his hometown in last November’s presidential election and his longtime high-rise home has been the site of dozens of demonstrations. Multiple protests were planned across Manhattan on Thursday during his visit.