Cantor vows healthcare reform push from GOP, more discussions on immigration

Greg Nash

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) reaffirmed Republicans' intention to reform healthcare in 2014 but offered few new details in an interview broadcast Sunday by CBS.

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Cantor told “Face the Nation” healthcare would be a winning issue for the GOP in the 2014 midterms. He said the chairmen of the Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Education and the Workforce committees — Reps. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and John Kline (R-Minn.) — are “all working on this that I believe will turn into an alternative for ObamaCare,” just as Democrats approached their effort in 2009.

“There is a consensus about Republican solutions for a healthcare system that works for everybody, which includes those without a job, which includes those who are sick,” Cantor said, declining to set a timeline. “It is obviously very important for us to get this done, because a lot of people are hurting because of ObamaCare.” 

Cantor also vowed to push forward on immigration reform, a main theme of House Republicans' retreat last week.

However, he stopped short of promising a vote on immigration reform.

"I believe that you're going to see us, in Congress, not only continue this discussion on immigration, but we want to try to get to the heart of the issues that are affecting most Americans," he said.

Republicans unveiled a series of principles for reform on Thursday, offering for the first time a way for illegal immigrants to get right with the law, and stay and work in the country legally. Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney trailed President Obama by 44 points among Latino voters in the 2012 election, and Republicans are eager to improve their image among minorities.

“One of the first things is we believe it is serious that we, and with some seriousness, that we control our borders, right?” Cantor said. “And this goes back to the distrust. There's not been a determined sense that we are going to secure the borders and make sure that the laws on the books are being implemented now. I would say that is a precursor and has to happen first.”

Cantor dodged questions about whether the GOP proposal rules out citizenship for the estimated 12 million people in the country illegally. He also declined to elaborate on how the House effort would “trigger” a path toward legalization, once the borders are secured. The Senate passed legislation on a bipartisan 68-32 vote last year that offers a 13-year path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, but the effort was dead on arrival in the House.

“No one is satisfied with the use of that term, if it is defining what is in the Senate bill,” Cantor said. “And so, we would like to see a clear, certain, determined ability to get the situation on the border straight and implement the laws on the interior, so that people can have faith across the country that laws are being upheld and that has got to happen first.”

— This post was updated at 11:10 a.m.

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