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Out of the Leadership Loop, Price Is Free to Forge His Path on Health Care

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Price said the Republican Party should come together to write and promote its own health care bill to show voters the GOP’s vision. His membership on the Ways and Means Committee gives him a platform on the issue.

When Speaker John A. Boehner told a reporter after this month’s elections that “Obamacare is the law of the land,” Rep. Tom Price said he felt “the same dread I had as when I was in the Supreme Court when Chief Justice Roberts read his ruling” upholding the law.

The Georgia Republican, a doctor and top House conservative, is now offering his own take on how the right wing can take on President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, and that strategy is not in line with leadership’s priorities.

Price, the outgoing GOP Policy Committee chairman, lost his bid to continue up the leadership ladder when Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington beat him to be conference chairman.

Although Boehner remained neutral publicly, it is no secret that leaders supported McMorris Rodgers, a loyal Boehner ally and a reliable vote for leadership.

Just before the elections, Boehner offered Price, who has at times bucked party leaders, a different spot at the leadership table if he dropped his bid and pledged to vote along with leadership for the next two years. Price declined.

Now he said he wants to continue passing full repeal bills and get the GOP to unify on health care legislation to show voters what type of change the party would institute if given the chance. Neither are priorities of GOP leadership. “The way that you actually attract individuals to a cause is to provide a vision. As the good book says, where there is no vision, the people perish,” Price said in an interview with Roll Call.

In going down this path, Price is showing a willingness to move to the right of the party line that might have given other leaders pause.

“The question is, what is he going to do with all that extra time?” a GOP aide said. “We know he’s a go-getter.” Such a stance, however, is in line with Price’s history as chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, and it could pay dividends for him if he decides to take on Sen. Saxby Chambliss in a primary, presumably by running to the senator’s right.

Chambliss, who was forced into a runoff election in 2008 after failing to clear 50 percent of the vote in the initial contest, has recently criticized GOP fealty to Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist.

A coming primary battle with Chambliss would create incentive for Price to break to the right of GOP leadership.

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