The on-again, off-again GOP alternative

THE ON-AGAIN, OFF-AGAIN GOP ALTERNATIVE…. Late Wednesday, Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), chairman of the House GOP Health Care Solutions Group, said House Republicans would not release a health care reform alternative. Despite several weeks of promises about a superior plan, Blunt said the minority party’s focus was on attacking the Democratic plan, and there was no need to “confuse the focus” or “divert attention.”

About 24 hours later, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) had a different message.

[Boehner] declined to say when Republicans would release their bill in a conference call.

“We’re continuing to put the final touches on our bill as the Democrats are continuing to put the finishing touches on their bill,” Boehner said.

On Tuesday, Boehner had blamed delays in releasing the GOP bill on difficulty in getting scoring from the Congressional Budget Office, which scores Democratic bills first. Boehner said then that the bill is “continuing to come together, and we hope to see it soon.”

So, on Wednesday, there is no GOP plan and the party saw no point in releasing one. On Thursday, the GOP plan is nearly finished and may be released after all.

Greg Sargent asked a good question: “Did Blunt know about this bill before suggesting Republicans might not release anything, or was a bill nearly completed without the knowledge of the House GOP Health Care Solutions Group’s supreme leader?”

Either way, whether GOP leaders realize it or not, I still think the release of a Republican alternative is a Democratic trap. After all, the majority is baiting the minority with taunts (“It’s easy to attack, but where’s the GOP plan?”), precisely because Dems would love to have a new target.

It would offer everyone a chance to compare two competing approaches to reform, and Democrats are confident their policy would be better. They’re almost certainly right.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.