A bipartisan group of House lawmakers has come to an agreement on immigration overhaul legislation, but one key Republican member will not sign off on it and will write his own proposal instead.
Rep. Raúl R. Labrador, R-Idaho, said he told the group that he would no longer work with it because language he had offered to prevent newly legalized immigrants who entered the country illegally from getting subsidized health care will not be included in the final version.
“If they are going to have the benefit of living in the United States — which is a privilege, not a right — they should provide their own health insurance,” Labrador said after the group of eight met Wednesday evening.
“Every time I submitted language that was rejected and we had a new redraft of the language, I thought we had an agreement in principle,” said Labrador, but none of the revisions was accepted.
He said that they were still negotiating the health care language, but that “where they’re going to end up is not simple, clear language, but more nebulous, in my opinion.”
“I can’t continue to negotiate,” Labrador said. “Sometimes you just have to walk away and you might end up getting a better product.”
Labrador said there was no anger in his decision, and he stressed that “everyone has acted in good faith.”
“We just have a different philosophy,” Labrador said. “The Democratic Party thinks that health insurance is a social responsibility of the nation. I believe that health insurance is an individual responsibility. That’s a really hard philosophy to mesh.”
Labrador warned that the issue could prove too difficult to find a compromise acceptable to both parties.
“I think you’re going to see in the end this might be the issue that breaks down immigration reform,” Labrador said, adding that he nevertheless intends to draft his own bill.
“I think there will be a reform effort that will pass the House of Representatives,” he said.
Labrador’s departure signals that the bill could be spurned by fellow conservatives, especially freshmen and those with whom he holds a semiweekly conservative roundtable to speak with the press. He had been viewed as somewhat of a conservative barometer, and his departure could give his colleagues cover to oppose the bill.
But gang of eight member Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., said that although Labrador is a “big part” of bringing House conservatives along, Texas Republicans John Carter and Sam Johnson are proven conservatives who can serve the same purpose.
“You can’t always get everybody on every bill, but he’s been instrumental,” Diaz-Balart said of Labrador. “He’s been essential in these negotiations. If we have a bipartisan bill, he’s going to be essential. He’s going to be essential in anything that may pass the House.”
He said the group would not likely file a bill this week but would continue drafting the legislation.
Similarly, Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, D-Ill., said the group agreed on the final outstanding issue: how immigrants waiting to be legalized would obtain health insurance.
“It looks like we resolved it, we found a way to move forward,” he said. “Everything has been agreed, and it has to be drafted.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.