SEPTEMBER 21, 2009
An influential senior Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee is withholding support for his party’s recently drafted healthcare reform bill because illegal immigrants won’t benefit under the plan.
The only Hispanic in the U.S. Senate, New Jersey’s Robert Menendez, doesn’t like the way illegal aliens are treated in the bill, recently released by Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, and refuses to vote for it until changes are made. This could create a huge problem, according to the congressional newspaper that broke the story, because Menendez has considerable leverage and may represent the committee’s deciding vote.
Specifically, Menendez objects to the portion of the bill that forbids illegal immigrants from buying health insurance through newly created exchanges that will be set up to cut costs. The senator, once among the highest ranking Democrats in the U.S. House, has joined forces with Hispanic advocacy groups that have denounced the proposed measure’s emphasis on legal and illegal immigrants.
Menendez is also concerned that, under the bill, families made up of both legal and illegal residents won’t be treated fairly because they can’t purchase reduced-premium insurance from companies participating in the new exchange. That means they would be forced to pay much higher prices for private coverage than legal residents.
Indeed the drafted bill says that families that include illegal immigrants will receive lower federal subsidies than those without. That means that the income of an illegal alien will be counted when assessing a family’s federal aid although the illegal immigrant will not be eligible for healthcare subsidies. This concerns Menendez terribly, though changing it would put him at odds with the White House.
President Obama has steadfastly maintained that his healthcare plan will not help illegal immigrants, although some aren’t buying it. A few weeks ago a Republican lawmaker made worldwide headlines for shouting out “You lie!” after Obama told a joint session of Congress that illegal immigrants will not be insured when his overhaul takes effect. That will certainly change if Menendez has his way.
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