When President Obama addressed Congress last month he made a promise. "There are also those who claim that our [health care] reform effort will insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false - the reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally." Rep. Joe Wilson, South Carolina Republican, yelled, "You lie," which made that section of the president's speech a part of every newscast.
Illegal immigrants technically are not covered in the bill. However, the health care bill that the Senate Finance Committee likely will pass today does not contain any mechanism to keep illegals from receiving benefits. On a party-line vote, Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee rejected a proposed requirement that would require immigrants to prove their identity. Imagine Congress passing age restrictions on alcohol and not requiring merchants to check IDs. Such a law could be described in a word: toothless.
Democrats seem to think we can trust illegal immigrants not to abuse the system. As Sen. Jeff Bingaman, New Mexico Democrat, put it: "The way I see the amendment, it's a solution without a problem." Expecting those who enter the United States by breaking immigration laws to respect the medical ones could be described in another word: naive.
Mr. Bingamen's claim that there is no problem is, in Mr. Obama's terminology, "false." Illegal immigrants already receive federal medical benefits, according to the Congressional Research Service, some of them illegally. Indeed, illegals do lie to get health benefits, and we don't do much to catch them.
In response to a question from Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, the Democrat-controlled Congressional Budget Office acknowledged that illegals are receiving government paid health care. Unfortunately, the CBO protected Democrats and refused to make an estimate of how many illegals would get benefits under the health care bill.
If Mr. Wilson was wrong when he said "You lie," now would be a good time for Mr. Obama to tell Democrats that he really meant no benefits for illegal immigrants.