(CN) - President Donald Trump asked House Speaker Paul Ryan not to hold Friday's do-or-die vote on the Republican's long-promised repeal and replacement of the federal health care law, conceding the GOP just didn't have the votes.
"We just pulled it," Trump told The Washington Post in a telephone interview. The decision means the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will remain in place.
"I don't blame Ryan," Trump said of the speaker.
"We were very very close. It was a very tight margin. We had no Democratic support," the President said. "I've been saying for the last year and a half that the best thing we could do, politically speaking, is let Obamacare explode. It's exploding right now."
He mentioned Arizona, Tennessee, and Kentucky specifically as states which are experiencing a rise in premiums.
"We couldn't quite get there, we were a small number of votes short," Trump said. "There are many people who don't realize how good our bill was." He said the people don't realize how good the bill was because they didn't realize there were two legislative phases to go.
Ryan himself said "moving from the opposition party to the governing party comes with growing pains. We're experiencing those growing pains today."
"This is a disappointing day for us," he continued. "Doing big things is hard. We will need time to reflect on how we got to this moment and how we could have done better."
The speaker maintained that he was proud of the bill the GOP had produced, and that "Obamacare is a bill that is collapsing."
Nevertheless, he said, "Obamacare is the law of the land and it will remain so for the foreseeable future."
Both Ryan and Trump described the Affordable Care Act as being in a "death spiral" Friday afternoon. Trump said he will attempt to do nothing on its repeal "until the Democrats come to me."
Both the speaker and the president predicted once their dire predictions about the Affordable Care Act come to pass, Democrats will be more willing to discuss major reforms.
Ryan said President Trump "gave his all in this effort. He really has been fantastic. ... but we have to do better and we will. This is a setback, no two ways about it, but we will come back from it. ... There remains so much we can do to improve people's lives."
Hours earlier, Ryan met with Trump in the White House to personally deliver word that the GOP simply didn't have the vote to pass the measure and to discuss the way forward.
A clear sign of the prevailing mood at the White House came from Trump spokesman Sean Spicer who told reporters "At the end of the day, this isn't a dictatorship and we've got to expect members to vote the way they will vote."
"There is no question that the president and his team have left everything on the field," Spicer said, adding, "At some point you can only do so much."
As Spicer guardedly answered questions from reporters at the White House, the vote was still on and believed to be only minutes away. But as the 3:30 p.m. start of the vote approached, Speaker Ryan called GOP House members into an emergency meeting to tell them the vote was not happening.