After House Speaker Paul Ryan reportedly told President Trump that Republicans lacked enough votes to pass the GOP health care bill, Republicans canceled a vote on the American Health Care Act on Friday, putting the president’s promise to repeal and replace Obamacare in jeopardy.
It’s the first major setback to the president’s agenda in Congress, but Republican voters are likely to hold Republican congressional leaders, rather than the president, responsible.
Ahead of the vote, Trump said Ryan should keep his job as House speaker even if the vote was unsuccessful. The president also told Robert Costa of The Washington Post that he doesn’t “blame Paul,” in the immediate aftermath of the news that the vote had been canceled. But the White House has reportedly been gearing up to point the finger at Ryan if anything went wrong. “Behind the scenes, the president’s aides are planning to blame Ryan if there is an embarrassing defeat on a bill that has been a Republican goal for more than seven years,” Bloomberg reported earlier in the day, citing an unnamed administration official.
And if Trump and Ryan clash as a result of the outcome, Republican voters may side with the president. In February, the Pew Research Center found that a majority of Republican voters were more likely to trust Trump than Republican congressional leaders in the event of a dispute. The survey also reported that Republican voters had a far more favorable view of Trump than they did of Ryan or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. An overwhelming majority of Republican voters—at 86 percent—had a favorable view of Trump, compared to just 65 percent who held a favorable view of Ryan and just 57 percent who felt warmly toward McConnell. That suggests that Republican congressional leaders could face retribution from their base if they end up on a collision course with the president.