Paul Ryan just announced that the house will not be voting on the AHCA today after all, since there was too much opposition from other Republicans for it to be able to pass.

Why would he cancel the vote, rather than let it proceed as scheduled? It's possible that when it came down to the wire, some of those who opposed it would vote for it rather than go on record as "voting to keep Obamacare". Is there some political (or procedural) advantage to not voting (and thus suffering the embarrassment of withdrawing the bill) instead of voting and failing (and thus suffering the embarrassment of a failed bill)? Is one worse politically than the other?

  • 3
    @JDoe - No, I saw yours, but I'm specifically asking why not even vote rather than why did this bill fail. I'd have expected them to hold a vote, to see if anyone changed their mind when it came down to the wire, even if they were expecting it not to pass. Why not even try?
    – Bobson
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 22:24
  • 1
    I think you should not restrict this question to just procedural reasons, otherwise the title should be "Why cancel a vote for procedural reasons?"
    – Justas
    Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 1:27
  • 1
    @Bobson A possible reason, but I don't want to answer as it's only possible, is to not reveal how far off they were. Counts put the list as 36 republicans shy. With no vote, Trump was able to say "5 votes shy" and "very close". I'm not saying that's why but they can claim "close" with no vote. It's more obvious with a vote.
    – userLTK
    Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 8:54
  • 2
    Not meaty enough for an answer but: it's often better politically for a politician to not vote than to be held accountable later for a vote on record.
    – user1530
    Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 22:47
  • 1
    @Justas - I just did exactly that. This question has been broadened, and the new procedural-only one is here.
    – Bobson
    Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 1:19

3 Answers 3


To protect rebellious Republicans from their vengeful president

Until Speaker Ryan chooses to answer this question himself, we cannot be certain why and we are left to speculate, but the New York Times suggests an answer in their coverage on the matter,

The president was furious that members of the hard-line conservative Freedom Caucus had opposed the legislation. He demanded for much of Thursday that Mr. Ryan push a vote to publicly expose the members who were opposing the administration.

Mr. Trump and his top strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, wanted to see a confidential list of compiled [sic] to exact revenge on the bill's Republican opponents, according to two people with direct knowledge of the situation.

Refusing to vote would prevent the President from learning who opposed the legislation and protect them from his wrath. It looks like there's a growing divide between Republicans in Congress and their president.

  • 5
    You could probably phrase this so it sounds less biased, but I would agree that this is one of the reasons. But it is one of the political reasons, while the OP specifically asked about procedural reasons (I don't think that it makes much sense to restrict the question like this, but that's what's being asked).
    – tim
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 22:58
  • 16
    You miss the obvious answer here... to avoid losing the vote. Its pretty embarrassing when a bill you put up loses because the members of your party don't support it Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 22:59
  • 4
    @DavidGrinberg I agree, but is there any less embarrassment by calling off the vote at the last minute, compared to letting it actually fail?
    – Bobson
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 23:10
  • 2
    "To protect rebellious Republicans from their vengeful president" = sounds like the elevator pitch for the next Star Wars movie plot.
    – user1530
    Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 18:55
  • 2
    Other than belittling them on Twitter, what exactly do they have to fear from Trump's "wrath?"
    – Andy
    Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 20:30

It's important to understand that there was no downside to voicing dissent. Politics is about convincing people to vote for a bill, which is a time and resource intensive process. Obamacare, for instance, literally made sweetheart deals with some Senators to get their vote

President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform proposal released Monday eliminates controversial funds given to Nebraska as part of a deal to win the support of centrist Sen. Ben Nelson (D).

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) offered the $100 million in Medicaid funding, also known as the “Cornhusker Kickback,” to Nelson to help win him over* as the 60th vote on the Senate’s healthcare reform bill last December.

Nelson claims that it was just in there as a placeholder.

There was no such dealing on this. In fact, the time frame was incredibly short (just a few weeks) compared to most legislation of this scope. Speaker Ryan was only going to allow one amendment to the bill to fix changes brought up by various people. And then President Trump issued an ultimatum, which may have been a way for Trump to walk away from the bill

So, now that Republicans have pulled the AHCA, does the loss undermine President Trump’s self-proclaimed proficiency at the negotiating table? Not so, says Erez Yoeli, a research scientist at Harvard’s Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, who argues that President Trump was in an almost impossible position. He could either pass the Ryan-designed bill, which overwhelmingly hurts his constituents, or he could risk his reputation as a tough negotiator by continuing to whittle away at the AHCA, trying to appease both moderates and extreme conservatives. In the face of such a dilemma, Yoeli says, Trump has more to gain walking away. That is, as long as he doesn’t ultimately go back on his word to punish Republicans for their inaction by leaving Obamacare in place.

  • From the quote: "He [Trump] could either pass the Ryan-designed bill, [..]" Since when is Trump in Congress?
    – Sjoerd
    Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 16:12
  • 1
    @Sjoerd What they mean is that Trump could spend his time and political capital on passing the Ryan bill, or move on to other things
    – Machavity
    Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 16:55

Why would he cancel the vote, rather than let it proceed as scheduled?

The vote was going to be a public roll call going through each Representative and putting their vote on record. Once it became clear that the bill was going to lose many Representatives who might have voted Yes would likely switch to No to avoid the negative consequences of having supported a failed bill (attack ads from opponents etc).

Those definitely against numbered about 30/40 but there were many Reps on the fence so if it was forced to vote it might have lost by as many as 100 votes.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .