By Frank James
While Republicans agreed that Rep. Joe Wilson's behavior during President Barack Obama's speech to the joint session of Congress Wednesday night went beyond the pale, they weren't totally out of step with the South Carolina congressman.
Rep. John Boehner, leader of House Republicans, echoed Wilson, who said he was upset because Republican amendments that would have barred illegal immigrants from health coverage were voted down by Democrats.
Referring to the president, Boehner said:
... He said illegal immigrants wouldn't get government benefits. But the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service on August 26th says, in part, H.R. 3200 does not contain any restrictions on non-citizens participating in and paying for coverage available through the exchange, whether the non-citizens are legally or illegally present or in the United States temporarily or permanently. And this CRS report makes it pretty clear. Secondly, there were two opportunities in committee for House Democrats to make clear that illegal immigrants would not be covered by putting in requirements to show citizenship. Both of those amendments were in fact rejected.
Here's the Congressional Research Service report he mentioned.
The CRS report does indicate that in some instances health overhaul legislation, HR 3200, that was passed out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee would allow illegal immigrants to participate in certain aspects of the health insurance system.
An excerpt from page the report's summary:
Thus, legal permanent residents, and noncitizens and unauthorized aliens who qualify as resident aliens (i.e., meet the substantial presence test), would be required under H.R. 3200 to have health insurance.
In addition, under H.R. 3200, a "Health Insurance Exchange" would begin operation in 2013 and would offer private plans alongside a public option. The Exchange would provide eligible individuals and small businesses with access to insurers' plans, including the public option, in a comparable way. Individuals would only be eligible to enroll in an Exchange plan if they were not enrolled in other acceptable coverage (for example, from an employer, Medicare and generally Medicaid). H.R. 3200 does not contain any restrictions on noncitzens participating in the Exchange--whether the noncitizens are legally or illegally present, or in the United States temporarily or permanently. Nonetheless, only aliens who could be classified as resident aliens would be required under the bill to have health insurance.
What is the "substantial presence test?" The report provides a definition:
Substantial presence test: the individual is present in the United States for at least 31 days during the current year and at least 183 days during the current year and previous two years. For computing the 183 days, a formula is used that counts all the qualifying days in the current year, one-third of the qualifying days in the immediate preceding year, and one-sixth of the qualifying days in the second preceding year.
So from the report, it would appear Republicans do have some ammunition for their charge that illegal aliens would be able to participate, at least under HR 3200.
(Note: This posting has changed since it was first posted. I changed the example drawn from the CRS report.)