WASHINGTON, May 5: US President Donald Trump extracted a much-needed victory from Congress Thursday as Republicans narrowly pushed through the House a bill repealing the landmark health reforms of his predecessor.
The vote of 217-213 could hardly have been closer in the Republican-controlled chamber, highlighting the concerns of many in Trump’s party who fear the bill could bump millions of Americans off their coverage and send costs skyrocketing for others.
Twenty Republicans joined the opposition, along with all Democrats, in the most contentious congressional vote of Trump’s young presidency.
But Trump, desperate to erase a crushing defeat in March when an earlier version of the health care bill failed, personally won over several reluctant Republicans, and the bill slipped across the finish line.
Obamacare is “essentially dead,” the president triumphantly declared in the White House Rose Garden, surrounded by key Republican lawmakers.
“We’re going to finish it off and we’re going to go on to a lot of other things.”
As for the bill which is now halfway through Congress, Trump expressed optimism.
“We’re going to get this passed through the Senate. I feel so confident.”
It is a conservative dream years in the making: ditching Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which Republicans accuse of sending health premiums soaring while reducing options for millions.
Democrats counter that Obamacare helped 20 million Americans gain health coverage and saved thousands of lives by barring insurers from denying policies to people with pre-existing conditions.
But Republicans including Trump have campaigned relentlessly on the pledge to dismantle the 2010 reforms.
“This bill delivers on the promises that we have made to the American people,” House Speaker Paul Ryan told clapping and cheering Republicans — while Democrats shouted their disapproval.
“A lot of us have been waiting seven years to cast this vote,” he added. “End this failed experiment.”