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House GOP will offer Obamacare alternative this year

CAMBRIDGE, Md. -- House Republicans plan to pass a healthcare reform bill that could replace the Affordable Care Act, Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced Thursday.

The No. 2 House Republican included the announcement in his presentation to rank-and-file members at the party’s three-day retreat here on its legislative agenda for 2014.

Cantor’s promise comes just two days after President Obama, during his State of the Union address, mocked the House for its repeated efforts to repeal his signature legislative accomplishment.

“If you have specific plans to cut costs, cover more people, increase choice – tell America what you’d do differently,” Obama said. "But let’s not have another 40-something votes to repeal a law that’s already helping millions of Americans.”

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Cantor said the proposal would build off of various alternative health plans that Republicans have offered this year, a Republican aide said, and would allow consumers to buy plans across state lines, reform medical liability and create health savings accounts, among other components.

The commitment to move ahead with a formal Republican replacement to the Affordable Care Act is part of a broader attempt by the House majority to focus on their policy alternatives to the president in an election year.

“It’s important that we show the American people that we’re not just the opposition party, we’re actually the alternative party,” House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters Thursday. “We know that the president’s policies are not working. That’s why we need to show the American people that the policies that we’re in favor of really will improve their lives.”

Healthcare was one of four broad policy “buckets” Cantor listed in his presentation to the Republicans about the 2014 legislative agenda. The party would also move legislation to encourage economic growth, address the “middle-class squeeze” and reform education programs.

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Cantor encouraged members to offer additional ideas in each area. A handout included blank lines for members to fill in some, and there was a way for them to offer them electronically.

But the announcement about a vote on an Obamacare replacement generated the most enthusiastic applause from lawmakers, according to a source who attended the meeting.

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), leader of a conservative subset of the House GOP that has already produced an alternative health bill, said he was encouraged by the announcement.

“I’ve always felt that Republicans are the party of big ideas and Democrats are the party of big government,” he said. “Any time we put our ideas out there, usually the American people like the ideas we have. They just don’t see them a lot.”

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michael.memoli@latimes.com

Twitter: @mikememoli

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