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Republicans yank Obamacare repeal bill

Facing a growing rebellion within his own ranks, Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the Republican Obamacare replacement plan from the House floor on Friday just before a scheduled vote.

The decision is a staggering defeat for Ryan and President Donald Trump in their first attempt to partner on major legislation and fulfill a seven-year Republican promise to repeal Obamacare. And it comes a day after Trump issued an ultimatum to House Republicans to vote for the bill or live with Obamacare.

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GOP lawmakers decided they can, in fact, live with Obamacare, at least for now.

A Republican leadership aide said Trump and Ryan spoke by phone at 3 p.m. and that the president asked the speaker to pull the bill. Ryan told reporters that his advice to Trump was to cancel the vote.

But the reality is that Ryan and his leadership team had been bleeding votes all day and were not close to passing the American Health Care Act. The speaker went to the White House and told Trump as much just an hour earlier.

Republicans were begging Ryan and party leaders to pull the bill to save them from having to vote on an unpopular measure. But Trump badly wanted to move ahead so he would "know who my friends are," he said, according to a Republican lawmaker who met with him. Democrats were unwavering in their opposition, and conservative outside groups despised the bill from the start.

And while GOP leaders had called Trump "the ulimate closer," he wasn't able to move many votes, especially among hard-line conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus. Trump admitted after the bill was pulled that he was "10 to 15 votes" shy of victory, a stunning margin considering how much effort he and Ryan had put into their lobbying campaign during the last week.

Ryan also knew, though, that if the bill had come up for a vote, it would have failed by a much larger margin than the whip counts. Once rank-and-file members knew it would fail, they'd reverse course and vote "no" in order to protect themselves politically, which their leaders would bless. That much larger margin of defeat would be an even bigger setback for Trump. In a sense, Ryan protected Trump from his own combative instincts, said GOP insiders.

"I will not sugarcoat this, this is a disappointing day for us," Ryan said at a press conference following the stunning announcement. "This is a setback, no two ways about it."

Ryan admitted that the Affordable Care Act, enacted seven years earlier almost to the day, "remains the law of the land... We're going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future."

Ryan insisted Trump was not at fault for the failure.

"The president gave his all in this effort," Ryan added. "He's been fantastic."

The Freedom Caucus — the group that took down Speaker John Boehner — remained unwilling to compromise with Trump and Ryan, believing that their bill didn't do nearly enough to

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White House complains pro-Trump group MIA on health bill

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President Donald Trump, through his top lieutenants, issued an ultimatum to House Republicans on Thursday to bring the struggling bill to a floor vote Friday, where it faces an uncertain future. | AP Photo

America First Policies, a nonprofit created to support the president's policy initiatives, has been mostly silent amid this week's health care fight.

By Shane Goldmacher

03/24/17 02:42 PM EDT

Updated 03/24/17 03:56 PM EDT

Amid the biggest policy showdown of Donald Trump’s presidency, top White House aides are perplexed that an outside group created to boost him at such critical junctions was missing in action.

The pro-Trump nonprofit, America First Policies, has been gripped by its own internal headaches as two of the six announced members of its leadership team have left in recent days, according to two officials involved with the group.

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Rick Gates, who worked as a deputy to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, departed following an Associated Press report this week that Manafort once worked to secretly “greatly benefit the Putin government.” Gates had been increasingly active running the group day to day until his sudden departure. And David Bossie, who served as Trump’s deputy campaign manager, no longer has ties to the nonprofit after POLITICO reported earlier this month that he was in talks with donors about launching a competing group.

“America First [Policies] has turned into an embarrassment,” one senior White House official complained as the vote loomed, calling the group “rudderless.”

With the health care law hanging in the balance, there were no TV ads, no brushbacks of wayward GOP lawmakers and no pointed reminders in key districts that every Republican nationwide ran on a platform or repealing and replacing President Barack Obama’s namesake health care law.

“Members of Congress need to be reminded of that and having a pro-Trump group doing that would be helpful,” said a second top White House aide.

“If we had an outside group …” the aide continued wistfully, but trailed off and didn’t finish the sentence.

No one with the group responded to requests to speak on the record about their activities.

The bill was pulled from the House floor Friday shortly before a scheduled vote was a staggering defeat for Trump, who campaigned on a promise to repeal Obamacare.

In the lead-up to the vote, a senior White House official complained that the Trump-aligned nonprofit was outflanked and outmaneuvered by outside groups opposed to the bill, such as the Club for Growth and Heritage Action, which had planned to use the vote in their closely monitored scorecards, and the Koch brothers network, which announced a seven-figure fund to defend Republicans who cross the White House.

"Right now, there is the perception that Heritage Action and the Club for Growth have more sway than I think they do. But that's only because they’re the only ones being as vocal,” said one of the two White House officials. “Trump has a much greater connection with the grass roots.”

America First Policies,

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Live updates: What's next in the Obamacare repeal fight?

Donald Trump. | AP Photo

President Donald Trump this morning targeted House Freedom Caucus members who continue to oppose the GOP’s Obamacare repeal bill ahead of the planned vote. | Getty

It's make-or-break for the GOP's troubled health care plan.

By Brianna Ehley

03/20/17 01:19 PM EDT

Updated 03/24/17 03:50 PM EDT

House leaders scrapped their plans to vote on their Obamacare repeal bill Friday afternoon, a stunning early setback for President Donald Trump’s administration and the GOP's efforts to dismantle the 2010 health care law.

The decision came after Trump on Thursday night threatened to leave Obamacare in place if the House failed to advance their health care plan Friday.

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Despite last-minute concessions to both conservative and moderate Republicans, House leaders struggled to unite a party that has vastly different visions for the health care system. Key moderates started to peel away from the bill Friday morning, raising doubts about whether the plan could survive. And conservatives held firm that they want to scrap Obamacare entirely.

House Speaker Paul Ryan is scheduled to hold a 4 p.m. press conference.

Here's a live rundown of Friday's action:

White House ally MIA in repeal fight, 3:20 p.m. As the fate of the repeal bill hangs in the balance, White House aides are wondering what happened to an outside group that was created to boost Trump’s agenda. The nonprofit, America First Policies, has been gripped by internal turmoil, sidelining what could have been a key ally in the repeal push. As POLITICO’s Shane Goldmacher writes , “there have been no TV ads, no brushbacks of wayward GOP lawmakers and no pointed reminders in key districts that every Republican nationwide ran on a platform or repealing and replacing President Obama’s namesake health care law.”

Spicer: Trump has given his all, 1:40 p.m. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the White House still wants a vote Friday, as he defended Trump’s role in pushing the bill. Trump “has left everything on the field when it comes to this bill,” Spicer said. “The president and his team have committed everything they can to making this thing happen. And the speaker is going to continue to update him on the way forward.”

Spicer reiterated that negotiations on the bill are done and Republicans now have to decide whether to make good on their years-long pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare.

“I think at the end of the day — you know, I said this yesterday — you can't force people to vote,” he said. “But I think we've given them every single reason to fulfill every pledge that they've made, and I think this is the right thing to do.”

Ryan heads to White House, 12:40 p.m. House Speaker Paul Ryan made an unexpected visit to the White House to brief President Donald Trump on the status of the GOP’s contentious Obamacare repeal bill just hours before the House is expected to vote on the measure.

Ryan’s meeting with Trump at the eleventh hour raises serious

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Live updates: What's next in the Obamacare repeal fight?

Donald Trump. | AP Photo

President Donald Trump this morning targeted House Freedom Caucus members who continue to oppose the GOP’s Obamacare repeal bill ahead of the planned vote. | Getty

It's make-or-break for the GOP's troubled health care plan.

By Brianna Ehley

03/20/17 01:19 PM EDT

Updated 03/24/17 03:50 PM EDT

House leaders scrapped their plans to vote on their Obamacare repeal bill Friday afternoon, a stunning early setback for President Donald Trump’s administration and the GOP's efforts to dismantle the 2010 health care law.

The decision came after Trump on Thursday night threatened to leave Obamacare in place if the House failed to advance their health care plan Friday.

Story Continued Below

Despite last-minute concessions to both conservative and moderate Republicans, House leaders struggled to unite a party that has vastly different visions for the health care system. Key moderates started to peel away from the bill Friday morning, raising doubts about whether the plan could survive. And conservatives held firm that they want to scrap Obamacare entirely.

House Speaker Paul Ryan is scheduled to hold a 4 p.m. press conference.

Here's a live rundown of Friday's action:

White House ally MIA in repeal fight, 3:20 p.m. As the fate of the repeal bill hangs in the balance, White House aides are wondering what happened to an outside group that was created to boost Trump’s agenda. The nonprofit, America First Policies, has been gripped by internal turmoil, sidelining what could have been a key ally in the repeal push. As POLITICO’s Shane Goldmacher writes , “there have been no TV ads, no brushbacks of wayward GOP lawmakers and no pointed reminders in key districts that every Republican nationwide ran on a platform or repealing and replacing President Obama’s namesake health care law.”

Spicer: Trump has given his all, 1:40 p.m. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the White House still wants a vote Friday, as he defended Trump’s role in pushing the bill. Trump “has left everything on the field when it comes to this bill,” Spicer said. “The president and his team have committed everything they can to making this thing happen. And the speaker is going to continue to update him on the way forward.”

Spicer reiterated that negotiations on the bill are done and Republicans now have to decide whether to make good on their years-long pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare.

“I think at the end of the day — you know, I said this yesterday — you can't force people to vote,” he said. “But I think we've given them every single reason to fulfill every pledge that they've made, and I think this is the right thing to do.”

Ryan heads to White House, 12:40 p.m. House Speaker Paul Ryan made an unexpected visit to the White House to brief President Donald Trump on the status of the GOP’s contentious Obamacare repeal bill just hours before the House is expected to vote on the measure.

Ryan’s meeting with Trump at the eleventh hour raises serious

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Democrats are stuck with Nunes in Russia-Trump probe

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Rep. Devin Nunes did not apologize for taking the information to the White House — something Democrats have decried as inappropriate. | Getty

Democrats are plotting their next move after questioning House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes’ fitness to lead the panel’s investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election.

One step they almost certainly won’t take: a boycott.

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Even as they ramp up calls for an outside investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow, Democrats say it would not make sense for them to walk away from the House probe led by Nunes, the California Republican many now view as a lackey for Trump.

If Democrats boycotted the investigation, they say, they would risk losing access to the evidence being turned over to the intelligence panel — giving Republicans complete control over how that evidence is presented to the public.

“Democrats feel that if we're not engaged in this investigation, no one will be,” Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat, said Friday. “In the minority, the only power we have is the power of public persuasion.”

Democrats on the committee huddled Friday morning to discuss how to respond to recent actions by Nunes, including his decision to cancel a planned public hearing next week with former members of the Obama administration.

As they entered and exited the meeting, they expressed a determination to trudge on.

“If we're not here shining a light on this, the light goes out,” said Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), a member of the intelligence panel. “Our plan is to use pressure to make this the most credible investigation possible.”

Added Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), also a committee member: “We want to illuminate the obstruction. We want to preserve our access.”

For Democrats, the episode is the latest example of how little power the minority is afforded in the House of Representatives, which isn’t subject to the Senate filibuster that gives them more leverage in the upper chamber.

Rep. Jackie Speier of California, another Intelligence Committee Democrat, said that while she has lost confidence in Nunes’ leadership of the investigation, she is not ready to commit to a boycott.

“It’s very important for us to recognize that if we are not part of the process, then it is only the Senate that is doing an investigation,” Speier said. Nunes, she added, “knows full well that there is grave question about his objectivity, and I think over the next few days, we're going to assess whether or not we feel confident that he can continue in that role.”

The latest dust-up with Nunes began Wednesday when the intelligence chairman — without any notice to committee Democrats — held a news conference and then briefed the White House on what he called new evidence, provided to him by an unnamed source, that members of the Trump transition might have been improperly monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies following the November election.

Nunes, who himself was a member of the

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