* Boehner does not promise House votes this year
* Some House Republicans at odds over tactics
(Adds quotes following leaders' meeting)
By Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON, Feb 28 A month after Republicans
rallied around offering an alternative to President Barack
Obama's healthcare law in an election-year move to broaden their
appeal to voters, divisions are surfacing over the issue in the
U.S. House of Representatives.
House Speaker John Boehner has not committed to voting this
year on legislation to replace Obama's landmark Affordable Care
Act. Different ideas are circulating among Republicans, ranging
from those who want broad legislation to others who seek
Majority Leader Eric Cantor brought together committee
chairmen and other Republican leaders, who have controlled the
House since January 2011, to discuss healthcare legislation on
"It was a beginning discussion," House Ways and Means
Committee Chairman Dave Camp said in an interview after the
"The goal is to develop consensus along healthcare policy,"
said Camp, whose committee is one of a few with oversight of
He would not speculate on whether Republicans will be able
to produce legislation on the House floor this year.
The often-fractured congressional Republicans had ended a
retreat outside of Washington on Jan. 31, delighted that they
had settled on an agenda for 2014 that centered on replacing the
law, which has had a troubled rollout.
Republicans had been concerned that simply voting to repeal
the law, as they have done more than 40 times, would not be
enough to carry them through November's congressional elections.
Boehner, the top U.S. Republican, told reporters on Thursday
that it was important for the party to come up with "better
solutions" on healthcare.
Asked about his plans to move legislation, Boehner said the
party would continue discussions on replacing the law, known as
Obamacare, and seek member input.
"We're going to go through a lot of ideas," Boehner said.
Republicans say Obamacare, passed in 2010, relies heavily
on government action in healthcare, resulting in interference in
The law requires most Americans to buy health insurance,
offers subsidies to help low-income people receive coverage and
sets minimum standards for coverage. It aims to dramatically
reduce the number of Americans without health insurance.
Representative Tom Price, a physician who wants to repeal
Obamacare and replace it with "soup-to-nuts reform of
healthcare," said such a wholesale effort is "not a viable
option at this point."
Price said that instead, House Republicans must find "four,
five or six areas" that a vast majority of them can agree on and
roll them together into a healthcare bill before the August
Disagreements over what bill or bills to bring to the House
floor were on display on Thursday during a panel on the future
of U.S. healthcare that was sponsored by several conservative
groups, including the American Enterprise Institute and Heritage
Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who heads a large
group of conservative House Republicans, made a pitch for a
comprehensive bill that would repeal Obamacare and replace it
with new limits on medical malpractice suits and expanded access
to health savings accounts.
More than half of the House's 232 Republicans are sponsoring
the bill that also would allow people to buy health insurance
across state lines and take steps that Democrats have criticized
as insufficient to meet patients' insurance needs.
Republican Representative Michael Burgess of Texas, an
obstetrician and leading voice in his party's healthcare debate,
countered Scalise, saying, "The big-bill concept is one I don't
Burgess said he would like to see more targeted bills move
through the House that address the most pressing problems from
Obamacare, such as premium amounts and doctor and provider
Larger issues such as a repeal might be best postponed until
after this year's elections or even after the 2016 presidential
election, when Republicans might be in a stronger position, he
"Washington is pretty unpopular right now. I don't think you
have the political capital to spend in one lift," he said in a
telephone interview, referring to Scalise's bill.
Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, who has close ties to
the House Republican leadership, said in an interview on
Wednesday that "there is an awful lot of political impetus" for
taking action on healthcare, given how controversial Obamacare
When members of Congress visit their home districts, Cole
said, "constituents ask them, 'What are you doing about it?'"
Yet Cole acknowledged that passing an Obamacare replacement
in the House, which likely would be rebuffed by the Senate,
would be "tricky" given the intricacies of healthcare and the
varying views among House Republicans.
(Additional reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Caren Bohan,
Mohammad Zargham and Amanda Kwan)