I REALLY DON'T THINK THIS IS GOING TO END WELL
Talking Points Memo is reporting that health care reform is now getting tangled up in the issue of immigration:
Lawmakers who want to extend health coverage to illegal immigrants will not block the passage of the final health care reform bill so long as the White House offers a substantive promise to start pushing comprehensive immigration legislation this year.
... Those familiar with the talks say any immigration legislation will include various amnesty provisions to allow for health care coverage....
David Dayen's response to this is absurd:
Keep in mind that comprehensive immigration reform which offers a path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented workers would essentially defuse the most controversial piece of the health care bill. Under the Senate structure favored by the White House, undocumented workers would not be allowed to purchase insurance coverage on the exchange with their own money. If immigration reform passes, there will be no undocumented workers, at least in theory.
Really? That's going to defuse controversy? That's going to make rabid immigrant-bashers happy? "Those people we hate who shouldn't get health care because they're illegal? They're not going to be illegal anymore, so they're going to get health care! We feel so much better now!"
Yes, yes, I know what the conventional wisdom is: that hardcore opposition to immigration reform is the cause of a very small group of disgruntled right-wing throwbacks. They may have scuttled the Bush administration's attempts to get an immigration bill, but their electoral clout is actually minimal -- a pro-immigration-reform candidate won the GOP presidential nomination, for heaven's sake, and Tom Tancredo's presidential bid tanked.
I don't buy that. The midterms are going to be low-turnout -- and this is even more motivation for the already extraordinarily motivated voters who are now threatening GOP vengeance at the polls. It's not going to sit well with Hillary Clinton beer-and-a-shot Democrats, either, especially in a recession.
Oh, and the timing?
If Congress considers an immigration bill this year, it would have to happen in the spring, says Marc Rosenblum, a senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute. "The Senate would go first in January or February, and the House would follow in March or April... it will have to happen within that window." Any later and White House would risk pushing the looming fight too close to the midterm elections, exposing vulnerable Democrats to even greater political blowback.
So this is going to happen now -- it's going to be another major undertaking at a time when Americans really want a focus on jobs and the economy? (And is the belief that this can be wrapped up by April coming from the same people who thought health care could be wrapped up by August and Gitmo could be closed this month? Give me a break. This will be demagogued for months and months. There's no way to keep it from "exposing vulnerable Democrats to even greater political blowback.")
Look, I'm not endorsing the immigrant-bashers' views. I'm just saying that this has a very good chance of being yet another fight in which Obama and the Democrats don't see that they're overmatched. I don't know if this is enough to scuttle health care, but it's enough to make 2010 as ugly as 2009.