THE LONG-SOUGHT, STILL-ELUSIVE GOP ALTERNATIVE…. When pressed on why Democrats are moving forward with a health care reform plan, while Republicans haven’t offered a proposal of their own, GOP leaders will routinely say there are a handful of Republican-backed bills. It’s a fairly shallow cop-out — none of the various GOP plans have been embraced by the caucus and/or its leadership.

Nevertheless, Republicans did promise, not too terribly long ago, that the caucus would offer an alternative reform plan. It would prove that the GOP is not only steering clear of the “Party of No” label, but also that the minority was serious about governing. Voters would have an opportunity to see two clear approaches to the issue — one from each party — and could evaluate which side offered the better solutions.

That commitment came 132 days ago. Republicans are still debating the point.

Some House Republicans are growing frustrated that their leaders have not yet introduced a healthcare reform alternative.

For months, the message from House GOP leaders on a healthcare bill has been similar to ads for yet-to-be-released movies: Coming soon.

According to several GOP lawmakers, the leadership is split over how to proceed in terms of unveiling an alternative to the final Democratic bill that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) intends to unveil as soon as this week.

I suspect part of the problem is that Republicans have noticed that health care reform is … what’s the word … tricky. Can GOP lawmakers come up with a proposal that covers the insured, offers consumer protections insurers don’t like, doesn’t raise taxes, lowers the deficit, and ensures exactly zero government intervention in the free market? It seems unlikely.

And yet, way back on June 17, Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO), the point man on the alternative GOP plan, publicly proclaimed, “I guarantee you we will provide you with a bill.”

It’s a “guarantee” Republicans are struggling to follow through on.

To be sure, I don’t necessarily blame Republicans for refusing to unveil an alternative health care plan. Producing a GOP reform proposal would not only give Democrats a target, it would offer people a chance to compare the two approaches. In a side-by-side match-up, it’s hardly a stretch to think the Dems’ plan would be better. Much better.

So, the conundrum continues. Do Republicans keep their word, unveil a bad bill, and give Dems a giant bull’s eye, or do they break their word and embrace the “Party of No” label?

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. 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.