Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), considered by the Republican Party to be an important voice on the issue of immigration, announced late Wednesday that he is stepping away from bipartisan negotiations over how to overhaul the nation's immigration laws.
A spokesman confirmed Labrador's intentions, which were announced after he left a meeting of the "Group of Eight" held Wednesday evening in the U.S. Capitol. A fuller statement was expected later, but the spokesman confirmed that the congressman decided to step away amid concerns over provisions of an emerging agreement regarding immigrant access to health-care.
Labrador, who is Puerto Rican, is an immigration attorney and one of the most outspoken and active members of the 2010 class of House Republicans elected with tea party support.
The House's "Group of Eight," not to be confused with the Senate's "Gang of Eight," has been working on a comprehensive plan to overhaul the nation's immigration policy, including how the nation guards the U.S.-Mexican border and establishes the status of roughly 11 million illegal immigrants. The talks include four House Democrats and four House Republicans who represent a cross-section of their caucuses and regions of the country affected by immigration.
Labrador's decision to bow out comes as the Senate is scheduled to begin debating a bipartisan immigration bill next week.
House leaders have faced pressure to hold an up-or-down vote on whatever measure emerges from the Senate, but GOP leadership has said it instead favors permitting the House Judiciary Committee to work out its own bill.
In a statement late Wednesday, Labrador said he decided to leave the group amid disagreements over who would be responsible for paying for health-care for immigrants.
“I have tremendous respect for the members of the bipartisan group who have been working with me to fix our broken immigration system,” Labrador said in the statement. “But after today’s meeting, the framework of the bill has changed in a way that I can no longer support. Like most Americans, I believe that health care is first and foremost a personal responsibility. While I will no longer be part of the bipartisan ‘Group of Eight’ House negotiators, I will not abandon my efforts to modernize our broken immigration system by securing our borders and creating a workable guest worker program. I remain hopeful that the House can pass a bill around these principles and I will keep fighting to make it happen.”