Cantor: House to vote on ObamaCare alternative in 2014

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CAMBRIDGE, Md. — House Republicans will vote on an alternative to ObamaCare in 2014, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) announced to members at their annual retreat Thursday morning.

"This year, we will rally around an alternative to ObamaCare and pass it on the floor of the House,” Cantor said during a presentation in which he outlined four areas — healthcare, jobs, helping the middle class and creating opportunities — where Republicans would offer “big, bold ideas.”

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The news, according a Republican leadership aide in the room, drew applause from lawmakers, who have pushed the GOP leadership to embrace a Republican healthcare plan nearly four years after Obama signed his signature policy achievement into law.

Several members stood up to support Cantor’s announcement and urged the party to focus on issues that speak directly to people’s lives.

“We need to show people we care,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (Utah) said during the meeting.

Cantor did not endorse a specific proposal among the many that individual lawmakers have introduced. A slide presentation that accompanied his speech cited four “solutions” that Republicans have long embraced: high-risk pools, allowing insurance to be purchased across state lines, medical liability reform and expanded health savings accounts.

A separate memo from the conference outlined guiding principles for a Republican plan, including affordability, provider choice and medical innovation. 

The various GOP proposals include plans by Rep. Tom Price (Ga.) and a separate measure introduced by the conservative Republican Study Committee.

RSC Chairman Steve Scalise (La.) applauded Cantor’s announcement.

“It’s less relevant whose name is on the bill as what’s in the bill,” Scalise said.

The decision comes as House Republicans are seeking to come up with a more positive agenda amid complaints from lawmakers and strategists that they have become too often defined by what they are against as opposed to what they are for.

“I think in order to maximize this year, it’s important that we show the American people that we’re not just the opposition party, we’re actually the alternative party,” Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) told reporters Thursday morning. “Republicans have to do more to talk about the better solutions that we think we have that will help the American people grow their wages, have opportunities to have a better job and clearly have a better shot at the American dream.”

Democrats have long hammered Republicans for stalling on their promise not only to repeal but to “replace” ObamaCare, and in his State of the Union address, the president mocked the House for holding dozens of votes to scrap the law without putting forward an alternative.

“The first 40 were plenty,” Obama said. “We all owe it to the American people to say what we're for, not just what we're against.” 

This story was updated at 4:39 p.m.