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House Republicans dumbfounded by failure to repeal Obamacare in Senate

Bob Schieffer on politics

House Republicans appeared dumbfounded Friday as they digested the news that their Senate counterparts failed to deliver an Obamacare repeal plan across the finish line.

There are deep divisions within the House Republican Conference about what comes next.

Some say the ball is still in the Senate's court for dealing with the 2010 health care law. Others suggest it's time for bipartisan negotiations to fix Obamacare's vulnerabilities. And still others said they have no idea what the next step should be, admitting that they've hit a dead end.

House Republicans discussed the situation Friday morning at a closed-door conference meeting and the mood was "somber," Rep. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, said afterward.

"I think we expected that the Senate would get something done and most of us expected to be here to deal with it," said Cole, who added that he's worried about the political implications for Republicans up for re-election in 2018.

President Trump lashes out on Twitter over health care bill setback

Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, on Friday praised the House for passing a health care measure in early May, but said, "I am disappointed and frustrated, but we should not give up," and he urged the Senate to keep working toward a solution.

"People here in Washington need to keep their eye on the ball," said Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-New Jersey, who helped craft a proposal that helped House Republicans find consensus on their repeal-and-replace plan earlier this year.

"It took Democrats 50 years to socialize medicine," said Rep. Raúl R. Labrador, R- Idaho, Friday. "I think we can take a little bit of time to protect the American people."

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina, said Friday that Republicans have to "regroup" and find a strategy that can get 51 votes in the Senate.

"We had an infamous Friday as well," he said, recalling the day in March when the plan in the House collapsed because GOP leaders were unable to secure enough votes for passage.

Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Alabama, said Friday that the Senate is obstructing the conservative agenda and President Trump's agenda.

"It starts at the top with Mitch McConnell and it goes all the way down to the bottom, the newest senator, Luther Strange. We need new leadership in the United States Senate. If Mitch McConnell cannot get the job done then those 52 Republican senators have got to get together and try to figure out who amongst them have the leadership capability of getting the job done," he said.

Asked if Mr. Trump did enough to coordinate with Senate Republicans, Brooks said, "It's quite clear that nobody did enough in the House, the Senate and the White House...Collectively, we're supposed to be a team."

Some members said, however, that now it's time to reach across the aisle.

"I think that we should work in a bipartisan capacity," said Rep. Leonard Lance, R-New Jersey.

"Right now, I think there's a great opportunity to enter into a bipartisan center of discussion on health care reform. That's where I think we go from here," said Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pennsylvania, the chairman of the moderate Tuesday Group caucus.

Some possible next steps, he said, could include stabilizing the individual market, maybe repealing the medical device tax and reforming the employer mandate.

Republicans warned that if the status quo remains, that the entire health care system would implode, as the president has suggested.

The House, for its part, leaves Friday for its month-long August recess and won't return until the beginning of September, during which time lawmakers will face a slew of deadlines to pass a government funding package and prevent a shutdown and to lift the debt ceiling.

The Senate, meanwhile, will return to Washington next week for additional votes on nominations and a defense policy bill. It will also eventually go on recess until September.