As House Republicans stumbled away from their retreat last week, there was apparently a division of labor within the leadership, with the Speaker focused on immigration reform strategy and Majority Leader Eric Cantor taking responsibility for an Obamacare alternative. According to The Hill‘s Molly Hooper, that means House passage of a health care bill this year:

For years, Republicans have promised a “repeal and replace” strategy on ObamaCare, but have never coalesced behind one plan. President Obama has repeatedly mocked the GOP for not delivering an alternative.

Cantor intends to move a repeal-and-replace bill before the midterm elections in November, according to a source familiar with the situation. He broached the issue at the House GOP retreat in Cambridge, Md., late last week.

Fortunately, Cantor’s got some experience on this subject:

This is not the first time Cantor has tried to move an ObamaCare fix bill. In April of last year, the Virginia Republican tried and failed to pass a bill that would shift money for the Affordable Care Act to boost high-risk insurance pools. Conservatives balked at the measure, and the bill was pulled from the floor.

Yep. House Republicans couldn’t agree on whether to push money into an existing transitional federal high-risk pool created by the Affordable Care Act, or through state-run high-risk pools, which mostly have an unsavory reputation. So that wasn’t a real good start for the Obamacare alternative effort.

Now there’s probably even less unanimity in the GOP about how to go about this, particularly after Senators Coburn, Burr and Hatch unveiled their P-CARE proposal, which is a lot more like Obamacare than a lot of hammer-headed House members are going to be comfortable with.

“We have an embarrassment of riches. There’s so many great ideas that are out there that I think what you will see is coalescing around these larger themes of empowering patients. In terms of who’s authoring which bills, that’s a leader [Cantor] question,” Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) told The Hill.

That’s another way of saying: “We have no idea what we are doing just yet.” There seems to be a lot of that going around right now.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.