Fate of Health Reform Reconciliation Bill May Lie With Immigration

Whereas, some members of the GOP, such as Senator Lindsey Graham, are busy pitting immigration advocates against health care advocates, this need not be an either/or issue: we need health care access for everyone.

This is a sensitive issue that stirs many emotions and has required many concessions. Yesterday, Representative Dennis Kucinich D-(OH) — a longtime crusader for single payer and the public option — declared that he would now vote for a health care reform that includes neither. Now it is Democrat Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus who has come out in opposition to voting for the Senate version of the bill.

Earlier, Rep. Gutierrez reprimanded President Obama’s dismal record on immigrant rights and deportations, calling for urgent action on immigration reform. In a Fox News interview, Gutierrez stated he was inclined to vote against a health care reconciliation bill that did not allow undocumented immigrants to use their own funds to buy insurance on the exchange, so that they do not need to use emergency care and pose a so-called burden on the system. He explicitly said, “I will not vote for the bill unless the White House begins to address the immigration issues both within the context of the bill and outside the context of the bill.”

It’s not entirely clear whether other members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) hold the same position on this issue. If they did, they would have enough political clout to demand some concessions from President Obama for immigration reform legislation. While a promise means nothing, the CHC can band together and threaten to kill health care reform reconciliation if the President continues to pay mere lip-service to the immigrant community. They were effective in hammering out a House compromise last year that at least let undocumented immigrants buy health insurance on the exchange using their own money.

It does seem that the Congressional Hispanic Caucus is once again pushing the White House to act on immigration issues. Earlier today, Politico reported that President Obama had exhausted most of his health care reform arguments with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and told them that the “fate of his presidency” hinged on whether he could pass health care reform.

That suggests that the President has refused to listen to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and played the re-election card. But the fate of the Obama presidency depends entirely on him and his actions, or rather, inaction on immigration that could push the CHC to kill the health care reconciliation bill being revealed today and up for a vote on Sunday.

Ironically, Sunday is also the day that thousands upon thousands are expected to take on National Mall, demanding immigration reform.

Photo Credit: Center for American Progress Action Fund

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