House Republicans are “frustrated” and “disappointed” that their Senate colleagues let their push to repeal Obamacare collapse early Friday morning — and after years of taking guff as the more dysfunctional chamber, they are more than happy to fire back.
As they came out of a Friday morning meeting where they’d expected to be discussing how to proceed with Obamacare repeal only to wake up and find the efforts had failed, congressmen took aim at an upper chamber many described as fickle, byzantine and incompetent.
“It gives you a sense of our frustration. Maybe now the rest of the American people get to see that even with as cantankerous and fractious [a conference] as we have in the House, we’re getting our work done. It’d be nice to actually have the Senate step up and do theirs,” Rep. Dave Schweikert (R-AZ) told TPM before laughing at a reference to an old Washington saw — and relaying his own version.
“You’ve all heard that joke: You’re a brand new member and the guy pops up next to you and says ’see across the hall, that’s the opposition. The other side of the capitol, that’s your enemy.’ Turns out, it could be true,” he said.
Schweikert is a hardline conservative who once mulled a primary challenge to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the man who dealt the death blow to the Senate bill early Friday morning. But even normally circumspect GOP House leaders wanted to make sure everyone knew who to blame.
“People are frustrated. We did our job and we’re not able to move forward with the Senate as a partner at this time,” House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), a key player on health care, told reporters. “We needed some vehicle from them in order to get into conference and we did not get that despite trying to help them in every way possible.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) led the closed-door meeting by reciting lyrics to the old song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” a ballad about a ship sinking just miles from shore — “Does any one know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours? The searchers all say they’d have made Whitefish Bay if they’d put fifteen more miles behind her.”
And the speaker was pointedly critical of the Senate in his public statement.
“We were sent to Washington to fulfill the pledges we made to our constituents. While the House delivered a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, unfortunately the Senate was unable to reach a consensus,” he said. “I am disappointed and frustrated, but we should not give up. I encourage the Senate to continue working toward a real solution that keeps our promise.”
Rank-and-file members were even more pissed off.
“They tried to do the most minuscule thing they could that was said to be relevant to [Obamacare] but it turned out they were way too ambitious,” Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) groused to TPM as he left the meeting. “I have never, ever seen a situation where the senators were calling to say ‘look, we can only pass this bill if you promise us you won’t pass it.’ I’ve never, ever heard that.”