Pelosi: 'Today is a great day for our country'
Moments later, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced that Republicans were nixing their high-stakes health care bill after failing to get enough support from within their own party. Obamacare would stay.
Democrats celebrated immediately, taking to social media and holding press conferences declaring a "sigh of relief" for the American public.
"In the words of my friend Joe Biden: This is a BFD," Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said in a statement.
"Today is a great day for our country," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters. "It's a victory. What happened on the floor is a victory for the American people."
After President Donald Trump's upset win last year, Democrats were downright mournful. Not only did they lose the presidential election, but Republicans maintained control of both chambers in Congress and it was clear that the GOP's No. 1 target was going to be Obamacare.
Democrats say Republicans' inability to uphold their campaign promise should further embolden and amplify their party both in Congress and at the grassroots level.
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-California, told CNN the bill's downfall was not only owed to Republican intra-party disagreement, but also to the liberal movement that's been pushing back against the new Republican government since Trump's first day.
Groups have actively been organizing phone and letter-writing campaigns to oppose the bill, and they've turned out in force at congressional town halls across the country.
"We showed (those constituents) there's going to be legislation coming through this House that we have to hold members accountable. This was, I think, the first real test of that," Swalwell said. "So yeah, we're fired up."
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Friday that the health care disaster sets a poor precedent for Republicans in the new Congress, adding that they're unlikely to have much luck with the president's budget plan -- something many Republicans have already criticized.
"So they have to re-examine how they are going to govern," Schumer said on a call with reporters. "They have to be much more capable and competent. I can't believe a bill like this was put on the floor with so little initial support."
Fresh off their victory in the House, Democrats are also entering what will likely be an ugly fight, this time in the Senate over Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.
Democrats were already planning to filibuster, and Republicans can still get around that by lowering the threshold needed to end a filibuster from 60 votes to a simple majority. But that would require changing the rules, thus repeating an intense and unpopular move that Democrats pulled four years ago.
Whether the health care bill fiasco will have a real impact on the Gorsuch nomination is unclear, but it could give Democrats some momentum as they head into the week.
"Let's not forget, had Mitch McConnell not held up (Supreme Court nominee) Merrick Garland for a year, we wouldn't have been talking about this," Schumer said Friday night on CNN.
Schumer argued that if Gorsuch couldn't get to 60 votes, then Republicans shouldn't change the rules, they should "change the nominee."
Looking ahead to 2018
In a sobering press conference, Speaker Paul Ryan acknowledged the Republican setback Friday.
"I will not sugarcoat this," he said. "This is a disappointing day for us. Doing big things is hard."
And it wasn't long before Republicans were fretting about next year's midterm elections.
"2018 will be tough," one senior GOP official told CNN.
Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, chairman of the House Democratic campaign arm, was already forecasting Friday which Republicans they could start targeting over the debacle. He told reporters there were 15 Republicans from competitive districts who voted to advance the bill in various committees during the legislative process.
"Their constituents deserve answers as to why they were voting yes on this bill which was horrible then, it was horrible today," he said. "And we'll continue to take this fight to the American people."
Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Massachusetts, told CNN now is a time for House Republicans "to reflect and be a little bit humble."
"If they want to do something constructive, they'll work with us to find ways to improve the Affordable Care Act," he said. "If they want to play politics and go down the same road again or drop their hands and do nothing, I think that's unfortunate because we have to wait for the Democrats to take over."
Article: NBC Montana