LEGAL IMMIGRANTS: GOP Rejects Bill to Cover Kids
Congressional Republicans have scrapped legislation that would have aided children of legal immigrants and their mothers to regain health benefits that were withdrawn as part of the 1996 welfare reform law, the Los Angeles Times reports. Last week, a group of "several powerful Texas lawmakers" led by Reps. Bill Archer and Lamar Smith argued that the change would be "an unacceptable retreat from welfare reform" and persuaded other GOP members to drop the measure. If approved, the measure would have given states the option to offer government-subsidized health care coverage to legal immigrant children and pregnant women who have been in the United States for at least two years, Republican aides reported. The measure would have modified a provision of the 1996 welfare reform law that prohibited legal immigrants from enrolling in the Medicaid program for five years. In a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), Smith and Archer wrote, "It is critically important to ensure that noncitizens come to America for opportunity and not for welfare." The bill had numerous supporters, including its chief backers Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), along with Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) and Reps. Rick Lazio (R-N.Y.) and Bill McCollum (R-Fla.). Republican Presidential candidate Texas Gov. George W. Bush (R) has not taken a position on the issue. Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.), an early supporter of the bill, said, "Perinatal service is so much more cost-effective than having a premature delivery. From a humanitarian point of view, it's the right thing, (and) from a budgetary point of view, it's the right thing to do." If enacted, the measure would have aided 130,000 children and 50,000 pregnant women over the next five years at a cost of about $500 million, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported. About 40% of those who would have been covered under the measure are in California; the program would have allocated $45 million a year to the state. The measure would have been added to the House version of a $26 billion giveback bill aimed at helping Medicare HMOs and hospitals. The bill is expected to be voted on in the House and the Senate by the middle of the week.
Cracks in the GOP Wall
According to the Times, the proposed measure "highlights divisions between Republican lawmakers who want to reach out to Latinos and those who take a hard-line anti- immigrant stand." The defeat of the measure demonstrates "stronger" support for the anti-immigrant position. The GOP is also divided on whether to grant amnesty to more than 300,000 Latinos who have been living and working in the country for years but who failed to apply when amnesty was available (Rubin, Los Angeles Times, 10/17).