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Archive for Saturday, September 12, 2009

Health care talks focus on illegal immigrants

September 12, 2009

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— Senators closing in on a comprehensive health care bill have whittled away all but the most contentious issues and one of those loomed large Friday: coverage for illegal immigrants.

Negotiators on the Senate Finance Committee thought they’d already resolved the question. That was before Republican Rep. Joe Wilson’s shout of “You lie!” as President Barack Obama said in a speech Wednesday that illegal immigrants wouldn’t be covered under his health plan.

That led senators to revisit the issue to make sure they have provisions in place to enforce prohibitions against illegal residents getting federally subsidized coverage.

“What we are trying to prevent is anyone who is here illegally from getting any federal benefit,” said Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., a member of the so-called Gang of Six, three Democratic and three Republican members of the Finance Committee. The group is facing a deadline early next week to produce a bipartisan deal.

If they don’t succeed, Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., plans to go it alone with a Democratic bill.

The outcome remains very much in doubt. A successful effort could form the basis for legislation that could appeal to a majority in the Senate since the Finance Committee has a moderate makeup that resembles the Senate as a whole.

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