Cantor: House to Vote on GOP Obamacare Alternative

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

CAMBRIDGE, Md. — Seeking to distinguish themselves as a party of alternatives, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Republicans will vote on an alternative to President Barack Obama's health care law this year.  

The size and structure of the bill remains in flux, he said, but he announced to the GOP Conference members gathered here for their annual retreat that a vote will happen in the coming months, according to a source in the meeting.  

"House Republicans will rally around an alternative to Obamacare and put it on the floor and pass it this year," he said. A few Republicans have produced comprehensive bills that they have pitched as viable alternatives to the Affordable Care Act. Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., for instance, has a bill and the conservative Republican Study Committee has asked leaders to consider another bill that it has touted.  

The group's chairman, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., told reporters at the retreat here that it matters less whose name is on the bill than that Republicans produce a proposal that can prove they have constructive ideas, rather than just a defensive posture toward Democratic legislation.  

But, he added, "I’d like it to be a single bill," rather than a hodgepodge of Republican legislation.  

In the meeting, Cantor noted several ideas Republicans have rallied around — notably high-risk pools for those with pre-existing conditions, health savings accounts, insurance portability across state lines and medical liability changes — but did not specify whether leadership would move ahead with one bill or several.  

The move has drawn some praise already from younger members. Rep. Jason Smith, R-Mo., one of the newest members of the House, said he wants to see Republicans produce their own bills, rather than simply deriding Democratic legislation.  

"I think it’s essential that we’re the party of solutions," he said. "I truly believe that before this year's over you’ll see the House Republicans pass a bill that will be our way to address the situation that’s going on now with Obamacare."  

The discussion among Republicans, however, has centered on whether they should produce lengthy bills during an election year when the party has as close to a sure lock on maintaining a majority in the House.  

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden told reporters that any time you produce legislation you risk facing backlash, but he said he prefers for his candidates to have policy to defend on the campaign trail.  

"I think as a party, if we’re seen as the opposition party and we spend all our time talking about what we’re opposed to, we miss a great opportunity to actually woo voters over to our side," the Oregon Republican said. "You need something positive to run on."  

Matt Fuller contributed to this report.