AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
President Trump has suffered his first big legislative defeat. He was unable to rally enough Republicans to vote for the Republican bill to replace the Affordable Care Act also known as Obamacare. The president spoke earlier from the Oval Office.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Thank you very much. We were very close. It was a very, very tight margin. We had no Democrat support. We had no votes from the Democrats. They weren't going to give us a single vote, so it's a very difficult thing to do. I've been saying for the last year and a half that the best thing we can do, politically speaking, is let Obamacare explode. It is exploding right now. It's - many states have big problems. Almost all states have big problems.
I was in Tennessee the other day, and they've lost half of their state in terms of an insurer. They have no insurer, and that's happening to many other places. I was in Kentucky the other day, and similar things are happening. So Obamacare is exploding. With no Democrat support, we couldn't quite get there. We're just a very small number of votes short in terms of getting our bill passed.
A lot of people don't realize how good our bill was because they were viewing phase one, but when you add phase two - which was mostly the signings of Secretary Price, who's behind me - and you add phase three, which I think we would have gotten, it became a great bill. Premiums would have gone down, and it would have been very stable. It would have been very strong. But that's OK.
But we were very, very close. And again, I think what will happen is Obamacare unfortunately will explode. It's going to have a very bad year. Last year, you had over a hundred percent increases in various places. In Arizona, I understand it's going up very rapidly again like it did last year. Last year, it was 116 percent - many places 50, 60, 70 percent. I guess it averaged whatever the average was - very, very high. And this year should be much worse for Obamacare.
So what would be really good with no Democrat support - if the Democrats, when it explodes, which it will soon - if they got together with us and got a real health care bill, I'd be totally open to it. And I think that's going to happen. I think the losers are Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer because now they own Obamacare. They own it - a hundred percent own it. And this is not a Republican health care. This is not anything but a Democrat health care. And they have Obamacare for a little while longer, until it ceases to exist, which it will at some point in the near future.
And just remember. This is not our bill. This is their bill. When they all become civilized and get together and try and work out a great health care bill for the people of this country, we're open to it. We're totally open to it. I want to thank the Republican Party. I want to thank Paul Ryan. He worked very, very hard. I will tell you that. He worked very, very hard.
CORNISH: Audio earlier of President Trump talking about the decision of Republicans to pull their replacement for the Affordable Care Act.
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TRUMP: Tom Price and Mike Pence here - our vice president - our great vice president. Everybody worked hard. I worked as a team player and would have loved to have seen it pass. But again, I think you know I was very clear 'cause I think there wasn't a speech I made or very few where I didn't mention that perhaps the best thing that could happen is exactly what happened today because we'll end up with a truly great health care bill in the future after this mess known as Obamacare explodes.
So I want to thank everybody for being here. It will go very smoothly. I really believe. I think this is something that certainly was an interesting period of time. We all learned a lot. We learned a lot about loyalty. We learned a lot about the vote-getting process. We learned a lot about some very archaic rules in obviously both the Senate and in the house.
So it's been - certainly for me, it's been a very interesting experience. But in the end, I think it's going to be an experience that leads to an even better health care plan. So thank you all very much, and I'll see you soon. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Mr. President, is it now your intention to go for tax reform, or what's next on your (inaudible)?
TRUMP: We'll probably be going right now for tax reform, which we could have done earlier, but this really would have worked out better if we could have had some Democrat support. Remember this. We had no Democrat support. So now we're going to go for tax reform, which I've always liked.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: And you're confident in Speaker Ryan's leadership and his ability to get things done.
TRUMP: Yes, I am. I like Speaker Ryan. He worked very, very hard. Lot of different groups - he's got a lot of factions. And there's been a long history of liking and disliking even within the Republican Party long before I got here. But I've had a great relationship with the Republican Party. It seems that both sides like Trump, and that's good. And you see that I guess more clearly than anybody. But we've had a - I'm not going to speak badly about anybody within the party, but certainly there's a big history. I think Paul really worked hard. And I would say that we will probably start going very, very strongly for the big tax cuts and tax reform. That will be next.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Sir, is it fair to Americans to let Obamacare explode?
TRUMP: Well, it's going to happen. There's not much you can do about it. It's going to - bad things are going to happen to Obamacare. There's not much you can do to help it. I've been saying that for a year and a half. I said, look; eventually it's not sustainable. The insurance companies are leaving. You know that. They're leaving one by one as quick as you can leave. And you have states, in some cases, soon will not be covered. So there's no way out of that.
But the one thing that was happening as we got closer and closer, everybody was talking about how wonderful it was, and now it will go back to real life. People will see how bad it is, and it's getting much worse. You know, I said the other day, when President Obama left - '17, he knew he wasn't going to be here. Seventeen's going to be a very, very bad year for Obamacare - very, very bad. You're going to have explosive premium increases, and your deductibles are so high people don't even get to use it.
So they'll go with that for a little while, and I honestly believe - I know some of the Democrats, and they're good people. I honestly believe the Democrats will come to us and say, look; let's get together and get a great health care bill or a plan that's really great for the people of our country. And I think that's going to happen.
CORNISH: That's President Donald Trump speaking earlier just a little while ago - his reaction to the decision of Republicans to pull their health care replacement proposal from the floor. There will be no vote. And people are talking about moving on.
I have NPR's Tamara Keith, our White House correspondent, here in the studio with me. And Tamara, I heard two things. One, he's saying Obamacare is the worst ever, (laughter), right?
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Yes.
CORNISH: And two, not actually trying to throw stones at the Republicans that made this a difficult bill.
KEITH: That is true. He seems to be trying to throw stones at Democrats, saying that Democrats own this now. It's theirs. The thing, though, is that he never tried to get Democratic support on this. He never really negotiated with Democrats. And the other thing that stands out from his remarks is he keeps saying, we were close. We were really close. This was so close.
The great thing for President Donald Trump of the vote not happening is no one will ever be able to know how far off they were. But as today went on, more and more Republicans - moderate Republicans were peeling off and saying they simply couldn't support this bill.
CORNISH: NPR's White House correspondent Tamara Keith, thanks so much.
KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.