House liberals on Wednesday upped the pressure on Democratic leaders to strip language from Senate health care legislation that limits legal and illegal immigrants access to medical care. Twenty-nine Democrats signed on to a letter to Congressional leaders to strongly urge the elimination of a five-year waiting period for legal immigrants in the Medicaid program. The proposal was put forward by the Obama administration and is currently in the health care bill authored by Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.).The letter, authored by Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Chairman Mike Honda (D-Calif.), also calls for stripping a provision that imposes waiting periods on legal immigrants to obtain credits to buy health insurance. Signers of the letter include Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.), Congressional Progressive Caucus leaders Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) and Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), and Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.).The unnecessary and burdensome waiting period has increased racial and ethnic health disparities, and thwarts the goal of health care reform, the letter states. It is not only fiscally shortsighted, but also arbitrary and fundamentally unfair to deny health care coverage to legal immigrants.Most of those same Democrats minus Frank signed on to a second letter by Honda that opposes a Senate provision that bars illegal immigrants from purchasing unsubsidized health insurance coverage. They specifically blast Baucus plan to implement citizen verification requirements to determine a persons eligibility for services.These requirements are cumbersome, ineffective, expensive, and create administrative barriers that prevent citizens from getting the health care they need, the letter states. Disease and illnesses do not discriminate based on immigration status, and neither should Americas health care policy.Both letters are being sent to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Finance member Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Baucus, among others.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.