The big story today, following President Obama's speech to Congress on health care reform, is Republican Congressman Joe Wilson's outburst, who shouted "You lie!" during Obama's speech.
Rep. Wilson is taking quite a beating today from the punditry and politicians on both sides of the aisle. His behavior has been labeled everything from "disagreeable" to "embarrassing" to "totally disrespectful."
I'm actually more interested in the debate itself than whether or not Rep. Wilson's outburst was disrespectful, which is to say that I'm actually more interested in determining whether or not Obama does indeed lie about illegal immigration in the public option, H.R. 3200.
But before turning your attention to this matter, I'd like to suggest that perhaps we Americans are too thin-skinned about things like this. Rep. Wilson's shouting would have fit in perfectly at a session of the Australian or English parliament, which may seem to most Americans to be in a state of perpetual uproar:
Then again, there's plenty of shouting to go around on this side of the pond (but the other side of the aisle), if you'll take a moment to revisit Bush's 2005 State of the Union Address, at which Democrats shouted and booed the president's call for Social Security reform:
(Hat tip: Michelle Malkin / Omri Ceren)
Are Illegal Immigrants Covered In The Public Option?
But as written above, I think the most important issue is whether Obama's heckler was in fact correct. Would Democrats genuinely like to focus on the debate and the issues, as they vehemently insist at all these town hall meetings? Then let's do so, please! The exchange at Obama's speech to Congress yesterday went like this:
President Obama: "The reforms I am proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally."
Rep. Wilson: "You lie!"
Okay, Obama vs. Wilson- who's correct here? To begin with, the public option as provided for in the Democrats' health reform bill H.R. 3200, is so complicated and impossibly lengthy that whether President Obama is lying or not, there is no way he can possibly be sure that H.R. 3200 doesn't provide taxpayer-funded health insurance to illegal immigrants. So he is lying if he pretends any certainty in the matter (unless of course he's read all 1,000+ pages of it).
Sadly, it would seem that H.R. 3200 does make it all too easy for illegal immigrants to end up on the dole. Part of this is because the bill is so confusing and internally contradictory. Obama and his supporters make claims like the one above on the basis of a line in H.R. 3200 that says illegal immigrants are not eligible for coverage under the public option, but the bill contradicts itself in many other places and creates loopholes that allow illegals in.
To begin with, the bill has no enforcement mechanism for this clause at all, and Democrats have fought Republicans every step of the way in their effort to introduce some "teeth" to this aspect of the bill. As the Center for Immigration Studies notes: "An amendment was defeated in committee that would have required the use of the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program, used by almost all other means-tested programs of this kind."
So illegal aliens are not allowed in the program, but we're not allowed to ask or determine whether someone's an illegal alien before letting them into the program? Sounds like illegals can get covered to me!
Loopholes, Loopholes, Loopholes
The official report on H.R. 3200, made by the Congressional Research Service, the non-partisan research arm of Congress, concludes that "under H.R. 3200, a 'Health Insurance Exchange' would begin operation in 2013 and would offer private plans alongside a public option... H.R. 3200 does not contain any restrictions on noncitzens participating in the Exchange—whether the noncitizens are legally or illegally present, or in the United States temporarily or permanently."
Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA) also points out that "Another provision states that if one member of a family is afforded coverage all members would have coverage, thereby creating another loophole to give taxpayer-subsidized health care to illegal aliens. If a child of illegal aliens is born in the United States, then the entire family becomes eligible for coverage. Page 133"
What emerges is a harrowing alternative. Either our nation's president is woefully inept and uninformed, or he is in fact- as Rep. Joe Wilson shouted last night- a liar! Pick one. But to maintain that H.R. 3200 would "not apply to those who are here illegally" when the CRS has clearly and unequivocally stated otherwise in its summary of the legislation, is to be either misinformed or disingenuous.
You may decide for yourself who was more uncivil last night- Wilson for shouting "You lie!" at the President last night, or Obama for... well- lying.