US & World

Congressman Becerra on health care, immigration, economy

Congressman Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles, speaks during the Characters Unite National Town Hall at the Newseum on December 2, 2009 in Washington, DC.
Congressman Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles, speaks during the Characters Unite National Town Hall at the Newseum on December 2, 2009 in Washington, DC.
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Xavier Becerra of California's 31st District played a big role in health care reform. Now he's turning his attention to immigration reform and fixing the economy.

Congress has had a lot on its plate recently with the battle over health care reform. It may seem like the battles are over, but no such luck, according to House Representative Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles.

Becerra talked to Patt Morrison about the bittersweet victory of passing health care reform legislation and what voters should expect in the upcoming years.

The congressman admitted that he was disappointed in the bill that finally passed congress, but he insisted that passing it was very important.

“What we’ve done is laid in place the architecture for America to join the rest of the civilized world in having a national mechanism to make health care available to every single American at an affordable rate,” he said.

Becerra expressed his disappointment that the bill did not include a public option to help keep insurance prices lower, but he said the bill was better than what most Republicans would have had the Congress do – nothing.

“To have voted no would have been to have started where we were last year at the beginning of the year with close to 8 to 14,000 people on a daily basis losing their health insurance, with 125 Americans dying every day because they lack health insurance, and seeing health insurance costs continue to rise,” the congressman said.

Becerra also talked about the decision to deny undocumented workers health care insurance.

“I think that’s extremely shortsighted, and at the end of the day a cost to the taxpayer,” he said. “If you have money and are willing to pay for your care but are told you can’t buy the insurance, guess what? You’re going to end up in the emergency room not able to pay for that care and who pays? No one but the taxpayer."

Becerra also touched on President Barack Obama’s image among the Latino population.

“I think there’s a lot of suspicion, a lot of doubt, a lot of concern," he said. "The president made a promise. He hasn’t fulfilled that promise. Rightfully, I think a lot of folks are questioning where the President’s priorities are.”

The congressman said the President wants to come through, but to do so, he must take more action rather than just talking about it.

Becerra was recently appointed as one of the chairs to a committee on the deficit, which aims at figuring out a way to get American out of debt. He expressed concerns for bipartisan cooperation
“I hope Republicans don’t go into this commission saying, ‘tax increases are totally off the table and only tax cuts are permissible,’” Becerra said.

“One of the reasons we’re in this fiscal mess that we find ourselves in is because of the Bush tax cut policy, which essentially drained the treasury of a lot of money that we needed and gave most of that to the very wealthy.”

Becerra said the wealthy were then supposed to invest money and create new jobs, but that part of the bargain never happened and led the economy into a recession.

The congressman spoke of one issue in particular to look out for. "We have a big fight coming up real quickly this year on the estate tax, because republicans call for the estate tax to go away," he said.

He hopes to reinstate the tax on those extremely wealthy individuals who die and then leave their estates to heirs. If the estate tax is reinstated, Becerra said between 60 and 80 billion dollars per year over the next 15 years would be made by the government.