Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Tuesday brushed aside a series of questions about whether President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration might lead companies to hire illegal immigrants who will soon be allowed to work legally, instead of hiring U.S. citizens.
In a House hearing, Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) asked Johnson whether the millions of people who could work legally under Obama's decision would be eligible for Obamacare benefits. Johnson said they would not be eligible.
"So therefore, an employer may have… a decision to make," Barletta said. "Do I keep the American worker and provide health insurance or pay a $3,000 fine, or do I get rid of the American worker and hire someone who I do not have to provide health insurance and I won't get fined. Is that a possibility?"
To that possibility, Johnson answered simply, "I don't see if that way."
"You don't think any employers will see it that way?" Barletta pressed.
"I don't think I see it that way, no. No sir," Johnson said, without any further explanation.
Republicans have raised a series of questions about Obama's immigration action, including how it might hurt U.S. workers, and how Obama justifies going around Congress. Barely questions Johnson in a House Homeland Security Committee hearing, and the GOP held another hearing in the Judiciary Committee in the afternoon.
Republican leaders are struggling to come up with a plan for responding to Obama's decision, although House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) indicated Tuesday morning he would not push as hard against Obama as many Republicans would like.
On Monday, Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) introduced legislation that would ensure no Social Security numbers or benefits would be given out to illegal immigrants that might receive work permits under Obama's action.
"What the president is doing is illegal, and to make matters worse, these same illegal immigrants may now also be eligible for government benefits – benefits paid for by hardworking American taxpayers," Johnson said. "That's just wrong."