During the health care debate in 2009, architects of the legislation ultimately decided not to cover immigrants who came here illegally, fearing it would sink the effort entirely.
Under the Affordable Care Act, immigrants who entered the country illegally are not eligible for subsidies and are not even allowed to purchase health care through the exchanges if they have the means to do so.
Even with that explicit language, doubt still circulated among GOP members in Congress that immigrants who broke the law were being rewarded with benefits. It was that question that led Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., to scream at President Barack Obama "You Lie" during a formal address to Congress when the president stated that his bill would not allow anyone who entered the country unlawfully the chance to get health insurance under exchanges.
The Senate "gang of eight's" legislation would allow immigrants who came illegally to purchase their own health care from the exchanges out of pocket, but would not give them the tax benefits.
With the Senate bill gaining momentum, the House group is on a tight deadline to reach an agreement next week before the Senate brings its bill to the floor for a vote in June. Aides in the House say there is an overwhelming concern that if the House fails to produce its own bipartisan answer to immigration reform, they could be forced to consider the Senate's version, which is a less conservative starting point than many House Republicans would like to see.
"We will not simply take up and accept the bill that is emerging in the Senate if it passes," House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday.
The House's bipartisan working group says it has yet to put the finishing touches on what to do about health care and whether to penalize the country's immigrants who do not get their own private insurance, but the group is still standing.
"We kept things moving forward, and I believe we will prevail. You can deter justice, you can slow justice, you can defer justice, but you can't stop it," Rep. Luiz Gutierrez, D-Ill., a member of the group, said in a released statement. "I've been fighting for immigrants for years. We've won battles, we've lost battles. I can tell you today that we are making progress, and we're going to win justice for immigrants and a sensible policy for the American people. We'll get there. And if political infighting between the parties derails immigration reform, we all lose."
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