GOP sees potent Trump attack line: health care for immigrants

GOP sees potent Trump attack line: health care for immigrants

Democrats running for president handed Donald Trump a potent attack line last week when they promised that their government health insurance plans would cover undocumented immigrants.

It merged two of President TrumpDonald John TrumpSanders says he wouldn't 'drop dead' if Trump decided on universal healthcare Overnight Health Care: Trump officials lay groundwork for May reopening | Democrats ramp up talks with Mnuchin on next relief deal | Fauci says death toll could be around 60,000 Hillicon Valley: State officials push for more election funds | Coronavirus surveillance concerns ramp up pressure for privacy bill | Senators warned not to use Zoom | Agencies ask FCC to revoke China Telecom's license MORE’s favorite campaign issues — health care and immigration — and could help him in battleground states where white, middle-class voters are worried about both.

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“It gives Donald Trump’s campaign a very simple message when it comes to health care: Your plans are getting worse, your premiums and deductibles have gone up, and these Democrats say they want to raise your taxes to pay for free health care for illegal immigrants,” said Scott Jennings, a GOP strategist who advised former President George W. Bush and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Former Trump advisor Bossert says to test the well, not ill; Senate standoff on next relief bill McCarthy slams Democrats on funding for mail-in balloting Harris, Ocasio-Cortez among Democrats calling for recurring direct payments in fourth coronavirus bill MORE (R-Ky.).

“The Democrats are living in a bubble on illegal immigration. They don't quite understand how it's being viewed in Middle America,” Jennings added.

All 10 Democrats raised their hands during one of last week’s debates when asked by moderator Savannah Guthrie if their health care plans would cover people who are in the country illegally.

Polls show the American public is divided on the issue.

A CNN poll conducted after last week’s debates showed that only 38 percent of respondents said health insurance coverage provided by the government should be available to undocumented immigrants, while 59 percent said it should not be.

“If the president uses that as an avenue of attack, I think it would pose a danger to any Democratic presidential candidate who supports that idea,” said Brad Bannon, a Democratic strategist and opinion contributor to The Hill.

“It is a dangerous issue, and I think Democrats have to make it clear that they want an expansion of the health care system, but it doesn’t cover illegal immigrants,” he added.

Trump has already lunged.

“The Democrats want to treat the illegals with health care and other things better than they treat the citizens of our country,” Trump told reporters Monday.

The idea of giving health care to undocumented immigrants is a relatively new position for Democrats.

The Obama administration and congressional Democrats then holding majorities in the House and Senate explicitly excluded undocumented immigrants from participating in ObamaCare when it was written 10 years ago.

But now, as Democrats eye the next steps in health care reform, major candidates are vowing that their plans would include coverage for undocumented immigrants.

“It’s not a handout. We’re in a different era. I believe what we’re doing right now is the right thing to do,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom PerezThomas Edward PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE said on Fox News over the weekend.

“Immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, pay billions of dollars in taxes,” he added.

Most candidates have not released their health care plans yet, so it’s not clear how such a system would work.

But "Medicare for All," which is supported by many 2020 Democrats and was authored by presidential candidate Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSteyer endorses Biden for president Sanders says he wouldn't 'drop dead' if Trump decided on universal healthcare Sanders 2020 press secretary: Democratic leadership interested in 'corporate status quo' or 'they're planning to replace Joe' MORE (I-Vt.), would cover anyone living in the U.S, including undocumented immigrants.

Even more moderate Democrats who don’t support Medicare for All say they would extend health care to undocumented immigrants.

“You cannot let people who are sick, no matter where they come from, no matter what their status, go uncovered. You can’t do that. It’s just going to be taken care of. Period. You have to. It’s the humane thing to do,” former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSteyer endorses Biden for president Sanders 2020 press secretary: Democratic leadership interested in 'corporate status quo' or 'they're planning to replace Joe' Biden joins calls to release racial breakdowns of coronavirus cases, deaths MORE, considered the front-runner for his party’s nomination, said during last week’s debate.

But holding that position could be a problem in a general election against Trump, Republicans contend.

The road to the White House runs through key battleground states Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden releases plans to expand Medicare, forgive student debt The Memo: Sanders's influence endures as campaign ends The two infectious diseases spreading across America MORE lost in 2016, such as Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

And voters there, who are already stressed about illegal immigration, do not want to pay for their health care too, Republican strategists say.

Millions of Americans still don’t have health insurance, even after the Affordable Care Act extended health care to 20 million people.

And some of the states with the highest rates of uninsured people, such as Florida, also voted for Trump in 2016.

Jennings predicted that Democrats were handing Trump a tool to hammer them with.

“I don't think the Democrats understand what an epic disaster they have unleashed on their own party,” Jennings said.

"You can’t go into the Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin countrysides, find people who voted for Trump that have maybe voted for Democrats in the past, and say, 'Here’s how we’re going to get you back: free health care for illegal immigrants.'"