U.S. Republicans, eyeing elections, paper over divisions

Saturday, February 1st, 2014 @ 1:46PM

CAMBRIDGE, Md., Feb 1 (Reuters) – Republican lawmakers, hoping to ride the disastrous rollout of President Barack Obama’s healthcare law to victory in the November congressional elections, are trying to put internal fights behind them and unify around a proposed Obamacare replacement.

During a two-day retreat on Maryland’s frozen eastern shore, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives also sought to shed the image they acquired during last October’s government shutdown as a cantankerous opposition party.

The smaller-government Tea Party faction and more moderate “establishment” House Republicans are linking arms around a strategy for the first time since they took control of the chamber in early 2011 – if all goes according to plans hatched during the closed-door retreat 85 miles east of Washington.

Republicans have seized on “Obamacare” as a way of turning around their image. Instead of just insisting on its repeal, as they have done nearly 50 times in House votes, House Speaker John Boehner’s troops plan to craft legislation to replace Obama’s healthcare law that aims to provide health coverage for millions of the uninsured.

“I think this is going to be very unifying,” said Representative Phil Roe, a Tea Party-backed Republican, obstetrician and chief sponsor of a healthcare reform proposal that could move through the House in coming months.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s declaration that Republicans would hold a floor vote this year on an alternative to Obamacare was one of the biggest applause lines of the retreat, Roe told Reuters.

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