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Becerra Optimistic That Health Reform Bill Will Pass

House Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra (Calif.) returned to Capitol Hill on Thursday “raring to go— on health care reform and brushing off the idea that Democrats took a beating on the issue over the August recess.“I think all the news about the town halls has made me more energized. We’ve got to make it happen. Failure is not an option,— Becerra said. Democrats must not succumb to the “desperation gasps of those so opposed to changing this broken system.—Becerra was in the Capitol for a press event to tout the benefits of the health plan for seniors and to dispel “Republican myths— about what it does. House Democratic leaders have stepped up efforts to debunk claims that their health bill would cover illegal immigrants, ration care and strip people of their current health plans.Despite the intraparty logjam over if and how to factor a public option into health care reform, Becerra said he is optimistic that party leaders can strike a deal with progressives and Blue Dogs. And in a major boon to their effort, President Barack Obama will address Congress in a joint session next week to build support for the plan.“There is room to maneuver with every Member in the Democratic Caucus,— he said. “I don’t think Members are stuck on yes or no, the choice of a public option, or yes or no, the choice of an employer or individual mandate. I’d say the bottom line is, will it work?—But Becerra added, “You can’t do a solid reform without a strong public option.—On another front, Becerra, a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said he wasn’t upset with Obama for punting on comprehensive immigration reform this year — a reversal from a previous commitment by the president.“Where on the calendar could he have put immigration reform?— the California Democrat asked. “I don’t blame the president for not having the time to put immigration squarely on the table for a vote.—Issues on the agenda for the fall — health care reform, climate change and financial sector reform, among others — are not “silly things,— Becerra continued. “We’re busy.—The key is that Obama is still committed to doing immigration reform, Becerra said, so lawmakers need to have a bill ready once a slot opens on the legislative calendar. This means Members can begin holding hearings and even markups on the issue until then, he said.The California Democrat said lawmakers could honor the recently deceased Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), a leading voice in the call for immigration reform, by working together to pass a bill.“He would probably be saying, How dare you use me as an excuse for not getting it done,’— Becerra said, speaking of Kennedy. “The man was about doing things, about reaching a solid compromise that worked. So shame on us if the message we take from his passing is that the one pioneer who could help us find a way is gone.—

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