Politics
Republican presidential candidate former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, left,  waves to a member of the audience as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich looks on, prior to a debate Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011, in Orlando, Fla.  (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack) Republican presidential candidate former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, left, waves to a member of the audience as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich looks on, prior to a debate Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)  

Santorum: Perry wanted Texas-Mexico health care

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Caroline May
Political Reporter

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rick Santorum launched a new front for GOP attacks on Gov. Rick Perry’s immigration record during Thursday’s debate in Orlando, Fla., charging the Texas governor with supporting a plan for bi-national health insurance with Mexico.

“I would say that he is soft on illegal immigration,” Santorum began. “[He] gave a speech in 2001 where he talked about bi-national health insurance between Mexico and Texas. I mean, I don’t even think Barack Obama would be for bi-national health insurance.”

Santorum’s comment was part of a larger hit on Perry’s immigration record, in which he cited the governor’s opposition to a border fence and support for in-state tuition for illegal immigrants.

Perry did not address the allegation, instead focusing on Santorum’s charge that he is weak on border security.

What did Santorum mean?

In 2001 Perry gave a speech – which still appears on the governor’s official government website — during a Texas border summit. He explained his support for a study on the feasibility of enacting a bi-national health insurance system with Mexico.

“Legislation authored by border legislators Pat Haggerty and Eddie Lucio establishes an important study that will look at the feasibility of bi-national health insurance,” Perry said then. “This study recognizes that the Mexican and U.S. sides of the border compose one region, and we must address health care problems throughout that region. That’s why I am also excited that Texas Secretary of State Henry Cuellar is working on an initiative that could extend the benefits of telemedicine to individuals living on the Mexican side of the border.”

The speech first came under national scrutiny when it was reported in late August of this year. Katherine Cesinger, a Perry spokeswoman, shrugged off the issue, saying that it never gained any traction in the state.

“A bill was passed by the legislature that authorized a study to look into this issue, which ultimately concluded there were numerous barriers to accomplishing that idea, and the legislature took no further action on this concept,” she said.

While the concept died, the speech is another resource for Republican presidential candidates seeking to attack Perry for his record on illegal immigration.

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