Hispanic Caucus Threatens to Block Health Bill Over Immigration Language

Posted November 5, 2009 at 5:42pm

Updated: 7:06 p.m.Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) warned President Barack Obama on Thursday that 20 members of her caucus are prepared to vote against the House Democratic health care plan if language restricting the rights of illegal immigrants to buy insurance is added to the bill.Velázquez met with Obama at the White House with a handful of other CHC members, including House Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) and Reps. Charlie Gonzalez (D-Texas) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.).“He listened to us and he knows where we stand,— Velázquez said. “We made it very clear that we support the language that is in the House. We expect that the current language will not change.—At issue is whether to adopt Senate language that would bar illegal immigrants from buying insurance with their own money through a new national insurance exchange. The White House and the Senate Finance Committee have backed such a ban, but House liberals and the CHC in particular are strongly opposed to the idea.Velázquez said she didn’t know who is trying to have the language changed. Asked where Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is on the matter, Velázquez said, “We will continue to have discussions.—Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.) — charged with looking out for politically vulnerable Democrats as Assistant to the Speaker and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman — has pushed to move the House bill closer to the Senate’s hard line. He huddled with the CHC on Thursday to tell them he supports the bill as written but warns that differences between the chambers’ approaches will have to be reconciled at some point, a senior Democratic aide said. The aide described the session as cordial.Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) said that in recent discussions people seem happy with the immigration language already in the bill, which prohibits illegal immigrants from getting subsidies but allows them to buy insurance with their own money.“As far as I know … everybody’s pretty content with the rule the way it is,— she said.Slaughter and other Members were heading into a meeting Thursday evening to discuss changes to the abortion language in the bill in an effort to assuage the concerns of Democrats opposed to abortion rights.Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.