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Latino Democratic Senators: Dump Border Wall, Improve Healthcare Law

A group of senators spoke to Latino media about their letter to Pres. Trump urging him to fix Obamacare and not let it "explode" and called the border wall a "poison pill."
Image: U.S. Capitol (?(C) Jonathan Ernst / Reuters file)
The U.S. Capitol dome and U.S. Senate (R) in Washington, August 2, 2011. JONATHAN ERNST / Reuters

WASHINGTON, DC -- The only two Latino Democrats in the Senate, Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Robert Menéndez (D-N.J.), joined several of their colleagues in signing on to a letter sent to President Donald Trump urging his administration to abandon efforts to continue to try to repeal the Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare — and instead work with Democrats on a bipartisan effort to improve the law and lower healthcare costs for all nationwide.

“While we would welcome your sincere interest in bipartisan work to improve quality, lower costs, and expand coverage, we are concerned by your recent statement indicating it would be a good thing to make the ACA ‘explode,’ which would hurt millions of Americans,” the senators stated in the letter, signed by 44 members of the upper chamber. “Instead, we urge you to use your executive authority to support a stable, competitive insurance marketplace.”

Earlier Wednesday, Cortez Masto and Menéndez, along with several other Democratic senators, participated in a roundtable with Latino media members to discuss the ACA, saying that Democrats are prepared to work with President Trump and Republicans to “fix the Affordable Care Act as long as they drop repeal and end their attempts to undermine the law.”

The senators also discussed keeping a vigilant check on the administration’s immigration policies and activities, and funding for a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, which Cortez Masto called “a poison pill” that could stall negotiations on the budget and risk a government shutdown if it remains in the budget. Government funding ends at the end of next month, and House leaders are hinting that funding requests for a border wall may be set aside until after a budget deal is reached. Trump’s budget proposal asks for nearly $3 billion to begin construction on the wall.

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“Senate Democrats made very clear that we will not vote for an appropriations bill that includes funding for President Trump’s deportation force or for his useless and costly border wall,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), one of the senators who participated in the roundtable. “Immigrants are the promise of America, we will not vote to fund an attack on law abiding, hardworking people with deep roots in our country, nor will we let American taxpayers foot the bill for this unnecessary wall.”

The senators also discussed the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court, with Schumer saying he intended to vote against the Colorado judge.

“I do not believe that he can be an independent check on the out of control Trump administration, and believe he’ll continue to favor the special interests over average people in the courtroom,” said Schumer.

Several Democrats on Tuesday introduced the Profiled Act, which would grant basic due process rights and protections for anyone detained on suspected immigration violations, and rescind President Trump’s executive order that directs the U.S. build a wall along the border with Mexico. Other provisions of the bill include instructing ICE and law enforcement not to conduct immigration raids near schools or places of worship.

“Targeting American citizens, immigrants and refugees because of the way they look goes against the very founding ideas of who we are as Americans,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). “It’s only right that when people are unfairly targeted by law enforcement in our country, they have the full protection of our laws. Communities should not be bullied into enforcing arbitrarily harsh federal immigration policies, which make us less safe. Effective policing requires trust between law enforcement and community members, and this bill is a step toward rebuilding that trust.”

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