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Abortion, immigration are factors in health-care reform vote
"Yes, you have someone here illegally, that's a bad thing," said Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D-Tex.). "But they are here. And someone's hiring them, by the way, and paying them. And they want to be responsible for their health care. We're going to have a provision that disallows them from purchasing a private plan."
The lawmakers made their case in a meeting with Obama on Thursday afternoon, but they said they received no commitment. Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.) said that the Hispanic caucus has 20 votes riding on the issue and that if the language changes, "I guess they won't have those 20 votes." She said of Obama, "He listened to us, and he knows where we stand."
Of Thursday's endorsements, the most significant is from AARP, the nation's largest and most influential association of older Americans, which has vowed to lobby House members in advance of the vote. Republicans have blasted the House bill as potentially devastating for seniors, pointing to more than $400 billion in Medicare cuts over the next 10 years.
AARP Vice President Nancy A. LeaMond said the House package would actually strengthen Medicare, the federal health program for people 65 or older, by restraining the program's costs. Congressional budget analysts have said the proposed reductions in spending would add five years to the life of the Medicare trust fund. Hospitals and other providers, meanwhile, have vowed to absorb the reductions without affecting services to seniors.
"We can say with confidence that it meets our priorities for protecting Medicare, providing more affordable health insurance for 50-to-64-year-olds and reforming our health-care system," LeaMond said in a news briefing.
She praised House leaders for including a plan to close the coverage gap in the Medicare prescription drug program known as the "doughnut hole." Key Democrats said the group's backing could prove critical to pushing their vote total over the top.
Obama called the AARP boost "no small endorsement" and told reporters at the White House, "So I want everybody to remember that the next time you hear the same tired arguments to the contrary from the insurance companies and their lobbyists. And remember this endorsement the next time you see a bunch of misleading ads on television."
Staff writer Scott Wilson contributed to this report.