Health Care Bill Could Hinge on Immigration Language

Democrats in the House can only afford to lose 40 members of their caucus when they vote on health care legislation this weekend, and leaders are scrambling to assuage the concerns of certain groups, particularly the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Democrats concerned over abortion issues.

There are already about 25 Democrats who almost certainly will vote against the Democrats' health care package, according to the Washington Post.

On Thursday, the Hispanic caucus told President Obama he could lose 20 more votes if revisions pertaining to immigration are made to the House bill, according to various reports. Mr. Obama met at the White House Thursday with a handful of CHC members, including Caucus Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), Charlie Gonzalez (D-Texas) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.).

The lawmakers said they opposed a provision from the Senate health care bill that would prohibit illegal immigrants from buying private insurance plans on the new health insurance exchanges to be created, even with their own money. If the provision is added to the House bill, "I guess they won't have those 20 votes" hinging on the issue, Velazquez said, the Post reports. Special Report: Health Care

The House bill already would already require immigrants to verify their citizenship in order to receive federal subsidies for insurance. However, the House could be compelled to adopt the stronger Senate language. The White House is backing the Senate language because it is concerned the issue could derail the bill once Senate and House leaders have to merge their proposals, the Boston Globe reports

Democrats are also trying to bring on board members concerned the bill does not do enough to make sure no federal funds would support abortions. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops participated in negotiations over the issue, according to the Associated Press.

Debate on the bill will start on Saturday and could take at least five hours, the Post reports, and legislators may not actually vote until Sunday.