POLITICS

The Obamacare threat to Republican immigration outreach efforts

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Conn Carroll,Politics Digest

During last Friday night’s Senate budget vote-o-rama, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., sponsored an amendment that would have prevented currently undocumented immigrants from receiving federal health benefits after they get amnesty. The vote predictably failed along mostly party lines 43 to 56. But more interestingly, the amendment perfectly divided the Senate’s bipartisan Gang of Ocho immigration reformers. Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin, Bob Menendez, Chuck Schumer, and Michael Bennet all voted against the amendment while Republican Sens. Marco Rubio, John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Jeff Flake all voted for it.

After the vote, Menendez tried to downplay the disagreement, telling The Hill, “Current law already explicitly excludes undocumented people from receiving benefits.”

Which is true. However, if amnesty passes, all those undocumented people will suddenly become not so undocumented anymore. That is the whole point of amnesty. And documented immigrants are eligible for Medicaid. They only have to prove that they have been in the country for five years. But if the whole rationale for passing amnesty is that we must offer a path to citizenship to those who have been in the country for years, then pretty much everyone who qualifies for amnesty will also qualify for Obamacare/Medicaid.

If the Republican Gang of Ocho members do not grant the newly amnestied immigrants immediate access to Obamacare, then Democrats will immediately use the issue to drive a wedge between immigrants and Republicans. Menendez promised exactly that Friday night, telling The Hill of Sessions amendment, “This is not a great way to do your outreach to the Hispanic and immigrant community.”

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