“Obamacare is the law of the land forever now,” a fuming U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Okeechobee, said Friday after House Republicans failed to enact — or even bring to a vote — a long-promised health care overhaul.
Rooney, elected in 2008 to a Palm Beach-Treasure Coast congressional district, voted against the Affordable Care Act in 2010, then watched his party campaign over the next four election cycles on a pledge to repeal Obamacare.
Rooney was prepared to vote Friday for the bill backed by President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan. U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, also appeared poised to support the legislation. But a scheduled vote on the legislation was called off in the afternoon because the GOP didn’t have enough votes to assure passage.
“It wasn’t a hard vote. We’ve been campaigning to repeal Obamacare for eight years…We wanted to put our marker down that the thing we’ve been campaigning on for eight years we were willing to do,” said Rooney, who since the 2012 redistricting has represented a Central Florida district.
“The American people rank the congressional approval rating below Fidel Castro, who is dead. And today they’re right. We failed the American people. There’s no other way to say it. We failed. They put their trust in the Republican Party to lead and we didn’t,” Rooney said as he headed from Capitol Hill to the airport to return to his district.
“Obamacare is the law of the land forever now. That was our one chance to repeal it, get rid of it, make it better.…Fifty years from now we’re going to look back at this day as the day we could have done something about it and we didn’t.”
Rooney predicted portions of the Affordable Care Act will “start failing” and Congress will have to take “emergency actions to fix those parts of it that are failing. But it will still be Obamacare.”
Added Rooney: “I probably shouldn’t be so emotional, but this is a boiling point…I’ve been here too long. I’m no longer the new guy that can act like things are going to get better.…We finally got our chance to govern and we blew it. We blew it.”
Mast wasn’t as disheartened.
“During my more than 12 years in the Army, I never went into one battle that was finished with one shot and I never went in with the perfect plan either, but what I learned is that when we went in unified and we worked together, we never lost,” Mast said in a written statement. “Our broken healthcare system will not be fixed overnight. As I have said from the beginning, the only way we can fix the failures of Obamacare is through a fully transparent process that engages voices all across the country. Moving forward, I hope my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will join me in working to improve our nation’s healthcare system to ensure that everyone has the liberty to choose the health care that is best for their life.”
U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, also issued a statement after the bill was pulled. “Today there was a great victory for the American people,” she said. “The very sick Republican health care proposal, Trumpcare, went down with a thud.”