Democrats Considering Health Care-Immigration Deal To Overcome Key Sticking Point

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Lawmakers who want to extend health coverage to illegal immigrants will not block the passage of the final health care reform bill so long as the White House offers a substantive promise to start pushing comprehensive immigration legislation this year.

Democrats who want a comprehensive bill that reforms immigration law but also offers a pathway to citizenship have threatened to vote against health care if illegal immigrants aren’t included in the new system, making immigration one of the sticking points as Democratic leaders negotiate the final details.

Democratic leadership aides believe that a firm White House promise of a comprehensive immigration bill will be enough to quell any House dissent.

TPMDC sources have been telling us that members won’t admit it publicly but they are ready to concede on immigration in the health care bill. Political aides in the White House have told key parties in Congress that President Obama wants to see a bill this year, and negotiations are under way for how it would be written.

A source familiar with the negotiations between Congress and the White House told TPMDC the Congressional Hispanic Caucus will demand an agreement from Obama that health care coverage for illegals who earn a path to citizenship will be addressed in an immigration bill.The Senate’s health care bill bars illegal immigrants from any sort of coverage, a provision embraced after Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) shouted “You lie!” during Obama’s address to Congress when the president said that illegal immigrants would not be able to get health care under the legislation.

Those familiar with the talks say any immigration legislation will include various amnesty provisions to allow for health care coverage.

Lawmakers want to be careful they aren’t viewed as giving up on a key goal, but have said they are confident the White House is being honest that Obama wants to see a comprehensive bill this year.

A source told us that members who have championed immigration reform “aren’t actually conceding, just changing tactics” to secure coverage for illegal immigrants whatever way they came.

Ed. note: This posted has been edited.

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