House Republicans headed home for a five-week summer recess
Things won't be any easier when they return as major fiscal fights loom
House Republicans are fed up and openly blaming their Senate colleagues across the Capitol for torpedoing their party’s pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare.
They headed home for a five-week summer recess having failed on a key policy goal they vowed to get done once they controlled Congress and the White House. And things aren’t getting any easier as major fiscal fights are hanging over them this fall.
Their overall message to voters: don’t blame us, it’s all the Senate’s fault.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, who spent weeks urging his members to hold their fire and give Senate Republicans some space to get a health care deal, didn’t hide his frustration at a closed-door meeting in the Capitol basement on Friday. He effectively threw the Senate under the bus, telling his colleagues that the House of Representatives was the only arm of the government that was working.
“Low bar, low bar!” Alabama Republican Rep. Mo Brooks yelled out inside the room.
One House GOP member in the meeting summarized Ryan’s remarks as “essentially, we are the functioning chamber. We did our work. This one is on them.”
Ryan released a statement underscoring this message: “While the House delivered a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, unfortunately the Senate was unable to reach a consensus. I am disappointed and frustrated, but we should not give up. I encourage the Senate to continue working toward a real solution that keeps our promise.”
Rep. Brian Mast, a Florida Republican and Iraq war veteran who lost both legs in combat, told reporters the “Senate showed they don’t have the courage they need.”
“Unacceptable, they can’t move on. We’ve got to get this done,” North Carolina GOP Rep. Richard Hudson told reporters about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s remarks that it was time to “move on” after the bill went down.
Most Republicans leaving the meeting insisted that the effort to roll back Obamacare was not over.
“We’re not going to stop what we’re doing just because of one setback. We’re not going to raise the white flag and surrender,” Georgia Rep. Barry Loudermilk said after the meeting.
The difficult legislative lift has been down before and come back, but few lawmakers had clear answers on how it could be revived after such a crushing blow led by members of their own party.
Brooks, clearly on the war path with McConnell as he attempts to knock off the incumbent Alabama Sen. Luther Strange, who the Senate leader supports, said, “if he wants to quit and move on, fine, he should resign from the leadership and let some bold new conservative leadership take over.”
“I don’t feel like we’re in a war, but I feel like there’s deep disappointment among House Republicans that we did our work and got a bill out and they failed. Any I’m not pointing my finger at any one person, I think this is an institutional problem for the Senate,” Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama, told CNN.
While there was an overwhelming sense of disappointment, some House Republicans appeared to relish the spectacular defeat in the Senate – just a little.
Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole was asked Friday whether there was a sense of “We showed you!” among his colleagues who could point to the fact they passed an Obamacare bill in May.
“I would hope I would rise above such childish sentiment,” Cole said, quickly adding with a chuckle. “But yeah, there’s a little bit of that sentiment there.”
Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pennsylvania, who opposed the House health care plan, complained about the process and also pointed the finger at President Donald Trump. “One of the issues was the president never laid out the principles and didn’t sell them to the American people. That was a big part of it,” he said.
Freshman Florida Republican Rep. Francis Rooney told CNN that the collapse of the Obamacare repeal effort was “a bit of a civics lesson” and observing the fallout after his first 7 months of a topsy-turvy process, remarked, “it’s just a very, very strange time here.”
But Rooney was quick to point the finger at the other side of the Capitol, saying before he was elected he was always told that the House was the “narrow self-interested body, and the Senate looks after the globe and I think we just saw that it might be the other way.”
“Their end game was to not have to deal with it, that’s crap,” Rooney’s fellow Floridian Mast said.