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House passes healthcare bill in big victory for Trump, bill faces uphill climb in Senate

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan smiles as he departs a meeting at the U.S. Capitol before a vote to repeal Obamacare in Washington, D.C., U.S., May 4, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque1 / 2
U.S. President Donald Trump gestures to the media after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas left the White House in Washington, U.S., May 3, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas2 / 2

WASHINGTON - The U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill on Thursday to repeal major parts of Obamacare and replace it with a Republican healthcare plan, handing President Donald Trump his biggest legislative victory but setting up a tough fight in the Senate.

With the 217-213 vote, Republicans obtained just enough support to push the legislation through the House, sending it to the Senate for consideration. No Democrats voted for the bill.

The bill's passage represented a vital step toward fulfilling a top Trump campaign pledge and a seven-year Republican quest to dismantle Democratic former President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law. But the effort now faces new hurdles in the Senate, where the House bill will have difficulty gaining Republican support.

Thursday's vote was also a political victory for House Speaker Paul Ryan, demonstrating his ability to pull together a fractured Republican caucus after two failed attempts this year to win consensus on the healthcare legislation.

Democrats are hoping that the Republicans' vote to repeal Obamacare will spark a voter backlash in next year's midterm congressional elections.

Some 20 million Americans gained healthcare coverage under Obama's 2010 Affordable Care Act, which has recently gathered support in public opinion polls. But Republicans have long attacked it, seeing the program as government overreach and complaining that it drives up healthcare costs.

The Republican bill, known formally as the American Health Care Act, aims to repeal most Obamacare taxes, including a penalty for not buying health insurance. It would slash funding for Medicaid, the program that provides insurance for the poor, and roll back much of Medicaid's expansion.

U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) spoke with Fox News’ Peter Doocy shortly after the vote and said the following: “It's a huge victory. The Senate couldn't act until we passed this bill. So this a huge step in moving forward for the American people and getting a sane healthcare system that will look out for the American people and families instead of bureaucrats here in Washington. So we’re excited. It was a good day.”

Duffy didn’t have a news release or statement available at press time.

Local lawmakers react

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) voted against the Congressional Republican health care bill and issued the following statement on his website:

"Never before in our nation’s history has a Congress and Administration offered a health care reform bill that instead of lowering the uninsured rate actually increases the number of uninsured individuals by 24 million people. That is because this is a large tax cut bill for the wealthiest paid for by kicking 24 million people off their healthcare coverage. It will allow critical protections for people with pre-existing conditions to be taken away, lead to skyrocketing premiums for older Wisconsinites, and put Medicare four years closer to going bankrupt. Instead of rushing forward a bill, without any hearings or cost estimate, we need to recognize what works in healthcare, fix what doesn’t, and seek to lower healthcare costs for all Americans.”

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) said in a statement following the victory:

“This so-called health care plan is a disaster. The reality is that under Trumpcare, 24 million Americans could lose their health insurance and it will likely remove protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Older Americans are going to pay up to five times more than others for their health care. On top of that is $600 billion in tax cuts to the wealthiest in this country, insurance companies, and Big Pharma. That’s what the Republicans in Congress and President Trump are all about. Those are their priorities. Unfortunately, the American people did not make that list.”

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) had the following to say about the Trumpcare vote on her website:  

“President Trump promised ‘insurance for everybody’ but the House Republicans broke that promise today by putting millions of people at risk of losing health care coverage and forcing millions to pay more for less care. The TrumpCare plan voted on in the House today weakens consumer protections in the private insurance market, puts insurance companies back in charge and lets them raise deductibles and charge higher premiums. It cuts Medicaid, putting support for special education, people with disabilities and those struggling with an opioid addiction at risk. This plan is so misguided that it targets older Americans with higher health costs and puts Medicare on a quicker path to insolvency while giving tax breaks to people at the top with higher incomes. House Republicans have not listened to the American people and the second version of TrumpCare is worse than the first. I will not support repealing the guaranteed health insurance protections and care that people with pre-existing conditions and others have today. Wisconsin cannot afford to buy what President Trump and Speaker Ryan are selling because the cost is lower quality health care and higher out-of-pocket costs to people with pre-existing conditions. The people of Wisconsin did not send me to Washington to take people’s health care away. I will not support higher costs, fewer people with health care coverage and more economic insecurity for Wisconsin families.”

RiverTown Multimedia reporter Matthew Lambert contributed to this story.