Trump, Ryan declare victory on Obamacare repeal bill — but its future is still uncertain

President Trump gave a victory speech at the White House on Thursday, shortly after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to repeal and replace major parts of Obamacare — handing the president his largest legislative victory.

“I went through two years of campaigning, and I’m telling you no matter where I went people are suffering so badly with the ravages of Obamacare,” he said in the Rose Garden. “This is a repeal and replace of Obamacare. Make no mistake about it.”

House Republicans just barely approved the highly controversial bill, officially named the American Health Care Act (AHCA), with a 217-213 vote. No Democrats voted for the bill.

Related: How the GOP health care bill differs from Obamacare

Dating from the introduction of the first version of the bill in early March, Trump boasted that it only took Republican eight weeks to pass the bill “if you think about it.” He said that Republicans accomplished this feat without any support from Democrats and suggested that the other party cannot accomplish its goals quite as efficiently.

U.S. President Donald Trump congratulates House Speaker Paul Ryan (L) as he gathers with Congressional Republicans in the Rose Garden of the White House after the House of Representatives approved the American Healthcare Act, to repeal major parts of Obamacare and replace it with the Republican healthcare plan, in Washington, U.S., May 4, 2017. (Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters)

“Don’t forget. Obamacare took 17 months. Hillary Clinton tried so hard, really valiantly in all fairness to get health care through. It didn’t happen. We’ve really been doing this for eight weeks if you think about it. And this is a real plan.”

Trump promised that premiums and deductibles would start dropping under AHCA. He expressed optimism that it would pass the Senate.

“We knew that [Obamacare] wasn’t going to work. I predicted it a long time ago. I said, ‘It’s failing.’ And now it’s obvious that it’s failing. It’s dead. It’s essentially dead. If we don’t pay lots of ransom money over to the insurance companies, it would die immediately,” Trump said.

He repeatedly praised the House Republicans gathered on the steps behind him for their work on behalf of the American people and said the effort brought the Republican Party, which had been deeply divided during the presidential primaries, closer together.

Trump invited key GOP leaders to address the crowd, notably House Speaker Paul Ryan, who had fought for years to repeal Obamacare.

Ryan, who delivered a familiar argument about how premiums have been skyrocketing under Obamacare, spoke glowingly of Trump, despite their public feuds in the past.

“Of course this wouldn’t have been possible without the two gentleman behind me,” Ryan said, referring to the president and vice president. “This is the fourth presidency I’ve served with. I have never ever seen any kind of engagement like this. I want to thank Mike Pence and I want to thank Donald Trump for their personal involvement with our members and working to get this right.”

Pence, who characterized the ACA as a “government takeover” of health care, said, “Welcome to the beginning of the end of Obamacare.”

Now the AHCA is on its way to the Senate where it’s expected to face a tough battle. With 52 seats, Republicans have only a small majority in the 100-seat chamber and just a few GOP defectors could stymie its progress.

The GOP victory brings Trump one step closer to fulfilling a major campaign pledge: to repeal and replace his predecessor’s signature health care bill. Republicans have long promised constituents that they would revamp the United States’ health care system to remove the government mandate that all citizens must have health insurance.

U.S. President Donald Trump (C) gathers with Vice President Mike Pence (R) and Congressional Republicans in the Rose Garden of the White House after the House of Representatives approved the American Healthcare Act, to repeal major parts of Obamacare and replace it with the Republican healthcare plan, in Washington, May 4, 2017. (Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters)

After a slew of other Republican politicians spoke, Trump returned to the podium for his closing statement in which he promised to get AHCA across the finish line.

“So the journey continues. We will get it done. We will have great, great health care for everyone in our nation. We have an unbelievable country, an unbelievable country. But I want to thank the men and women behind me. I want to thank at least some of the men and women in front of me. And of course, I even want to thank the media,” Trump said, eliciting laughter from the other Republicans. “Thank you all very much, everybody. Thank you.”

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