Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth downplayed the exit of Republican Raul Labrador from a bipartisan group of lawmakers working on immigration reform.
The House “Gang of 8” was made up of four Republicans and four Democrats, including Yarmuth.
Lawmakers had been meeting in secret negotiations for months, but Labrador’s departure came down to whether undocumented immigrants should be required to pay for their own health care on their pathway towards citizenship.
The problem, Labrador said, was an impasse over how the pending legislation would address the issue of health care for undocumented immigrants. That issue had recently emerged as a major sticking point between Democrats and Republicans, and the negotiations had teetered on the edge of collapse at least three times in the last several weeks before drawing closer to an agreement again.
During the negotiations Republicans reportedly wanted provisions to explicitly say the estimated 11 million immigrants who have come to the U.S. illegally had to pay for 100 percent of their health care costs out of pocket, while Democrats had suggested creating a fund they would contribute to over time.
Yarmuth says the group will continue to work on comprehensive reform despite Labrador’s exit.
“We have a way to move forward,” Yarmuth told WFPL in a statement. “We have strong bipartisan support for a comprehensive fix to our broken immigration system, and I’m confident we will get it done.”
Labrador warned observers last month that President Obama’s health care law could endanger efforts to reform the immigration system. The Affordable Care Act specifically prohibits benefits for anyone who is not a lawful resident, however.
The remaining GOP members in the ‘Gang of 7’ have reportedly agree to stay, but the loss of Labrador is seen as a significant setback at immigration reform efforts in the GOP-controlled House.