The US House of Representatives has passed a healthcare bill, bringing President Trump’s pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare a stride closer.
The American Health Care Act (AHCA) passed with a vote to spare, after weeks of cajoling within the Republican party to muster enough support.
Democrats were unanimously opposed and their House leader Nancy Pelosi called it a “cowardly choice”.
President Trump predicted this “great plan” would now get Senate backing.
“Make no mistake, this is a repeal and a replace of Obamacare,” he said from the Rose Garden at the White House, soon after the vote.
Its safe passage through the US lower chamber provides the new president with his first legislative victory, three months into his term.
And it marks a remarkable turnaround after the bill was left for dead in March when Republicans were unable to agree on its provisions.
But it was a close-run thing – Republicans needed 216 votes in the House and it passed with 217. No Democrats voted in favour.
Round one of the battle over Obamacare repeal is in the books. Round two is set to begin, with the opponents more powerful and the obstacles more imposing.
It’s worth remembering that passage of the Republican healthcare plan in the House of Representatives was supposed to be the easy part. House Speaker Paul Ryan had a sizeable majority at his disposal and the political tools to reward support and punish transgressions.
Instead the American Health Care Act’s long, laborious journey exposed divisions within the Republican Party and the limits in Donald Trump’s powers of persuasion. These challenges won’t disappear. The fault lines will be put under greater pressure and Mr Trump’s skills will be further tested when action heads to the Senate.
Unlike the House, the Republican majority there is narrow, and already some in the party are showing misgivings about the current legislation. Democrats, who have more parliamentary tricks up their sleeves, will attempt to disrupt the process at every turn.
Still, a win is a win. It wasn’t pretty. It may not last. But Mr Trump and the Republican House leadership will take it.
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