Reps. Weiner and Bilbray Debate Health Care

Reps. Weiner and Bilbray Debate Health Care

By Lou Dobbs Tonight - September 14, 2009

DOBBS: Congressman Joe Wilson causing an uproar when he yelled "you lie" to President Obama in front of the joint session of Congress last week. But will the president's health care plan cover millions of illegal immigrants or not? That's the subject of tonight's "Face Off" debate.

And joining me now, Congressman Anthony Weiner, Democrat of New York, who says no illegal immigrants would receive coverage. Good to have you with us, Congressman.


DOBBS: And Congressman Brian Bilbray, Republican of California who says there are loopholes that would allow health coverage to illegal immigrants. Good to have you with us, Congressman.

REP. BRIAN BILBRAY (R), CALIFORNIA: Great to be with you...

DOBBS: Let's listen to what Olympia Snowe -- Senator Snowe had to say today after a meeting of the so-called gang of six over in the Senate.


SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE (R), MAINE: There are still some other issues but make sure that there's, you know, explicit verification, you know, documentation and also (INAUDIBLE) prohibition against illegal immigrants.


DOBBS: Well, there's Olympia Snowe, Senator Snowe making it very clear, there should be absolutely no coverage, Congressman Weiner. And it looks like that would be, if this legislation is to go forward in the Senate, that would be an absolute requisite. Are you comfortable with that?

WEINER: Well let's make it very clear, there are many different plans floating around, and every single one of them makes it very clear that no one who is undocumented will be eligible to sign up for any of the plans being contemplated. But before we get too carried away with ourselves, let's remember something.

Whether they're covered by insurance or not, they're still going to get health care and it's still going to be paid for by we the taxpayers. That's why we need to fix immigration laws. We can try to thump our chest and say we're being tough on immigrant by leaving them out of these plans but that doesn't mean they're not going to get care and it doesn't mean that if they can't afford it there going to pass along the bills to our localities and to we the taxpayer.

DOBBS: Congressman Bilbray?

BILBRAY: Lou, you know that if you do not have verification -- if you don't have a requirement that you check that people are legally in the country, the illegal swarm in. I mean the fact is, is that in California where illegals are not supposed to get in state tuition, they're getting it now.

You're getting college loans because we're not checking. The fact is you can all say you want about well, we don't want illegals to get it, but if you don't specifically identify that you will check and verify, that's the absurdist thinking that you're going to set a speed limit on a road, but then put a big sign up says but no enforcement on this road will be implemented. What speed do you think they'd follow?

DOBBS: Congressman Weiner, two amendments that would have been -- including the Heller amendment first and foremost that would have provided enforcement, defeated in Congress, conveying at least to many the very specific impression that just as you were intimating there, that there was no desire to be, quote/unquote, "tough on illegal immigrants" but rather to make enforcement, you know, absolutely impossible and, therefore, tacitly to give health care coverage to illegal immigrants. Is that -- is that incorrect?

WEINER: That's completely untrue. In fact in the laws it's written in the five different plans, you can't sign up to get into the exchange or sign up to get any benefits without verification. The Heller amendment had the absurd idea that we want our doctors sitting in an emergency room trying to figure out if someone was documented or not, that we should not put that burden on any hospital or any doctor. Doctors should be left to take care of people. The only question was an absurd amendment that was roundly defeated that said you know what -- when someone is brought in on a gurney, let's figure out by doing a retina scan or fingerprint whether they're here illegally. Let doctors do what they do best. We, policymakers who said you can't sign up for insurance, you can't sign up for benefits if you're not documented, that's easy to verify and that's in the law.

DOBBS: Congressman Bilbray, you get the last word on this.

BILBRAY: The last word is the fact that history has proven that if you verify, you require verification, check documentation and make sure you send not just a signal to those illegally here now but send it around the world that, look, America's not going to reward people for coming into our country illegally. We have to send a clear message so they learn, don't try to break the law, don't take that risk because we're not going to reward you. If you don't even bother to require verification then you have groups that end up suing and stopping any kind of verification, even if somebody wants to voluntarily do it because they claim it's discrimination. That's why it's quite clear just like employment, like the president rightfully did this month by mandating all contractors verify. We should do the same thing with all of our public benefits across the board. That's how we send a clear message if you want to come here to America, come here legally.

DOBBS: Your reaction to that, Congressman Wiener?

WIENER: Look, no one's disputing that you should have verification to enroll in the program. The law is crystal clear, anyone from any part of the world can read that, no one's going to get the insurance if they're not here legally. The only question the absurd idea that others have, if someone's rolled in on a gurney, before we do any operation, anything, we find out whether or not they're documented. Let's leave doctors and nurses and technicians to do what they do well. Just because we have immigration laws that are broken, does that the mean that should go on. I say to Mr. Bilbray, if he's an unfortunate person to be brought in and he doesn't have a wallet with him or can't speak, are we supposed to wait to operate to make sure he's here legally and wait for a system to try to check that? I think that's folly. The issues are the costs and you bring down cost business passing plans like the Obama administration's proposed.

BILBRAY: Anthony, you know that's not true. I mean San Diego county provides $600 million of free health care to illegal aliens, you know they don't deny you. I've been in hospitals in my county when I was a chairman. I saw it.

WIENER: What are you asking for? What are you asking for then?

BILBRAY: I want to make sure that before you sign on to any public federal benefit or any public program the federal government's involved with that you verify that somebody's legally present.

WIENER: That's in the law, Brian, and you know it.

BILBRAY: That is not, in fact. In fact, the congressional research board already said that they will have access in here.

WIENER: I will show you the page in the bill.

BILBRAY: Why did you vote against the motion in your committee when the fact, all it said, is let's verify people's citizenship before they get the benefit.

WIENER: No, what Heller said we should not provide any service at a hospital unless verified. That's an impossible standard for a doctor, and you know it.

BILBRAY: I know what the schedules are now in the process now. They get the benefits, Anthony, and you know they're getting benefits at clock of 600 million.

DOBBS: We'll continue this. Come back, we'll continue the discussion. We appreciate it. Congressman Anthony Wiener, Congressman Brian Bilbray. Thank you.


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