President Barack Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) secured a critical bloc of healthcare votes on Thursday when the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) announced its support.
Half a dozen members of the CHC held a news conference to announce their support. They were unhappy with language that barred illegal immigrants from accessing the public health insurance exchanges. More than a dozen had threatened to vote against the Senate bill and its companion reconciliation package. The House healthcare bill, which passed by two votes, won the support of every member of the Hispanic Caucus.
Ultimately, the lawmakers determined the fight for the immigration language was not worth killing the broader package. And at least one said his vote came after President Barack Obama this week assured him that he would push for a broad immigration overhaul.
Hispanic Democrats said they decided to strengthen their own cause and the president’s hand by helping him attain a major victory. They also said they have set the stage for addressing the public-exchange issue after the healthcare bill becomes law.
“I’ve been a legislator for 35 years,” said Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.). “Once you have a law on the books, you can amend it as time goes on.”
The National Council of La Raza is standing firm against the bill because of the immigration language.
“The argument that everyone should support healthcare reform because it’s for the ‘greater good’ has given national leaders an excuse to brush off the concerns of the most disenfranchised and vulnerable communities that desperately need results,” Jennifer Ng’andu, deputy director of La Raza’s Health Policy Project, wrote in an op-ed on the Huffington Post Thursday.
“More often than not, appeals to the “greater good” come at the expense of the most vulnerable communities.”