WASHINGTON Rep. Joe Wilson is wrong.
In his speech to Congress Wednesday, President Barack Obama said the changes to health care that he's proposing "would not apply to those who are here illegally." That prompted Wilson, a South Carolina Republican, to shout "You lie!" from his seat in the House chamber. Wilson later apologized for the outburst, but he didn't back down from his claim.
THE FACTS: The House version of the health care bill explicitly prohibits spending any federal money to help illegal immigrants get health care coverage. Illegal immigrants could buy private health insurance, as many do now, and they could also buy into a new government-run insurance plan if Congress creates one. But unlike legal residents, they wouldn't get federal subsidies to help them. The bill's exact language: "Nothing in this subtitle shall allow federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully in the United States." Health care legislation in the Senate is also being crafted to exclude illegal immigrants from coverage.
However, Wilson is far from alone in thinking that the prohibition in the House bill doesn't go far enough. For him and other Republicans, the problem is not what's in the bill, it's what the bill leaves out. There's no provision for how the prohibition would be enforced, or any requirement for people to prove they are citizens or legal residents before getting health care benefits. In fact, Democrats on the Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means committees defeated Republican-offered amendments that would have required people to verify their legal status before getting care, with some Democrats saying such requirements would be unnecessarily burdensome for people legally entitled to care. Wilson cited the defeat of those two amendments Thursday when he discussed his outburst with reporters.
"I will tell you this that it was spontaneous. It was when he stated, as he did, about not covering illegal aliens, when I knew we'd had those two amendments," Wilson said.