Senate, House 'Gangs' at Odds on Obamacare in Immigration Bill

Image: Senate, House 'Gangs' at Odds on Obamacare in Immigration Bill Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., second right, speaks, as, from left, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.; Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.; and Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., listen during a news conference after their tour of the Mexico border on March 27 in Nogales, Ariz.

Thursday, 13 Jun 2013 08:43 AM

By John Gizzi

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Two members of the Senate Gang of Eight that crafted immigration-reform legislation said Wednesday that the final package, likely to be voted on by early July, would include a ban on government-run healthcare for illegal immigrants.

If such a ban — spelled out by Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado and Republican Jeff Flake of Arizona — is passed in the Senate bill, it would stand in sharp contrast to a plan put forth by the Senate Gang's counterpart in the House.

The insistence last week of Democrats in the House Gang of Eight to make healthcare available to illegal immigrants led to Republican Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho to resign from the group in protest.

The assurance of a "no free healthcare, period" provision in the eventual Senate bill was underscored by Bennet and Flake during a press breakfast in Washington, D.C., hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

Asked by Newsmax if the Senate package specifically bars government-managed healthcare for illegal immigrants, Flake replied: “Yes, it does bar healthcare. That was our agreement.” Bennet voiced agreement with his Republican colleague.

Both lawmakers were asked whether illegal immigrants would be “excluded from Obamacare.” Some House Democrats are making the argument that enactment of the Affordable Care Act has changed the nature of healthcare coverage in the United States and that illegal immigrants should have access to the system.

But Bennet and Flake disagree with that premise.

Under the measure now being prepared for a vote in the Senate, Bennet said, illegal immigrants "don’t have the benefit of subsidy and they don’t have the benefit of a mandate.”

Bennet said that they could receive healthcare coverage when “employers can purchase insurance for them.”

“We don’t change existing law,” the Democratic senator said. “That’s where we are.”

This ban in the Senate legislation is the polar opposite of what appears to be taking shape in the House at the hands of its own Gang of Eight.

(Several House members told Newsmax they dislike the term "gang" and prefer they be called the Group of Eight.)

As Newsmax reported on Tuesday, Labrador resigned from the House group because Democrats insisted that the House immigration package did not rule out government-managed healthcare.

Asked who was demanding the Democrats take this position, one congressional staffer, who requested anonymity, replied: House Minority Leader Nancy "Pelosi and the House Democratic leadership."

But for now, the Senate is taking the lead in working on comprehensive immigration reform.

The Senate began debate on its version of immigration reform this week, while the House Judiciary Committee ikely will take the rest of June before its bill is ready for consideration.

Bennet said that getting a large majority in the Senate would put pressure on the House.

“The bigger the vote, the better our chances in the House,” Bennet said.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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