Vice President Mike Pence’s planned visit to Little Rock and Memphis was postponed on Friday.
The former Indiana governor had planned to hold a “listening session” at Little Rock Tours and Travel. Instead, Pence stayed in Washington, D.C., where the House scheduled and then canceled a vote on the bill.
“The Vice President is postponing his trip to Little Rock and Memphis to remain in Washington to work with President Trump as the House of Representatives considers the plan to repeal and replace Obamacare,” Marc Lotter, a spokesman for the vice president, said in an email.
A date has not been set for a return trip, he said.
In addition to visiting Little Rock, Pence planned to go to Memphis to watch the University of North Carolina play Butler University in the NCAA basketball tournament. That plan was canceled, too.
Gina Martin, co-owner of Little Rock Tours and Travel, is a longtime opponent of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. At a 2013 news conference in Washington, D.C., she described the negative effects the law has had on her business.
In 2014, Martin appeared in a television campaign commercial urging voters to help then-U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., unseat U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor. Pryor had supported the Affordable Care Act, she said, adding, “It’s already costing us a fortune.”
Thursday night, House leaders postponed a vote on the Republican plan to overhaul the nation’s health care system. Too many Republicans planned to vote against the bill for it to pass.
But at President Donald Trump’s insistence, House Speaker Paul Ryan scheduled a vote for Friday. That vote was then canceled Friday.
Some Republicans said the bill would leave too many uninsured. Others, including U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., said the bill doesn’t go far enough to reverse former President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care law.
The lawmaker said he feared that the bill’s refundable tax credit would “essentially create a new entitlement program.” He also expressed concerns that it would push the nation further into debt.
In the Senate, Cotton has said he did not support the bill and House Republicans should not rush to pass the measure.
Lotter did not respond to a question about why Pence planned to visit Arkansas and if it had anything to do with Crawford and Cotton’s opposition.
In an interview before the cancellation, Republican Party of Arkansas Chairman Doyle Webb said the disagreement would result in a better bill.
“We believe the process in Washington will be a healthy debate and that’s how the Founding Fathers set up the process and there will be a good product that comes out at the end that meets the needs and wants of the American people,” he said.
“I certainly respect Sen. Cotton’s perspective and Rep. Crawford’s perspective. I think that’s part of the healthy debate going on. I can’t tell you that one side is right and one side is wrong. It’s just part of the process that will develop a good plan.”
The Republican legislation would halt Obama’s tax penalties against people who don’t buy coverage and cut the federal-state Medicaid program for low earners, which the Obama statute had expanded.
It would provide tax credits to help people pay medical bills, though generally skimpier than Obama’s statute provides. It also would allow insurers to charge older Americans more and repeal tax boosts the law imposed on high-income people and health industry companies.