House Republicans are beginning to ask if Democrats' insistence on government-managed healthcare for illegal immigrants will finish off any possible immigration reform package.
Sources among Republicans said there had been an "agreement in principle" — among the House version of the bipartisan of the Gang of Eight — that any compromise package would require people on a pathway to eventual citizenship to be responsible for their own healthcare.
But during recent Gang of Eight meetings in the House, one staffer who requested anonymity told Newsmax, "Democrats made it clear they wanted to leave the issue of barring undocumented aliens in the U.S. from obtaining healthcare off the table."
Asked who was demanding the Democrats take this position, the same staffer replied: "[House Minority Leader Nancy] Pelosi and the House Democratic leadership."
"They felt that the enactment of Obamacare in 2010 changed things from when the Gang was first constituted, and that illegal immigrants should now qualify for Obamacare," the same source said, describing why Pelosi and the House Democratic leadership would suddenly take this position after four years of giving the impression they would not insist on government-backed healthcare in any deal on immigration.
The stubbornness of House Democrats on this issue recently convinced Republican Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho to quit the bipartisan Gang of Eight.
Four years after it was formed to seek a compromise package on immigration, the Gang of Eight in the House was composed of Republican Reps. John Carter (Texas), Sam Johnson (Texas), Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.), and Labrador; and Democrats Luis Gutierrez (Ill.), Zoe Lofgren (Calif.), Xavier Becerra (Calif.), and John Yarmuth (Ky).
A similar bipartisan group of eight senators already crafted a version of immigration reform that is receiving initial consideration this week on the Senate floor.
While some Republicans believe this "Obamacare is non-negotiable" attitude on the part of Democrats ends any hope of the House ever enacting a comprehensive immigration package, others believe — at the very least — that it strengthens the hand of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican.
Throughout the immigration debate, Goodlatte has made it clear he wants a "step-by-step" approach to the subject — with separate measures dealing with border security, e-visas for guest workers, and other points of debate — rather than a comprehensive package.
On June 5, the Gang announced that it had agreed upon a compromise immigration package — albeit without providing any details — and would move forward with it. But it was a Gang of Seven that made the agreement. Labrador announced he was "now on my own" on the immigration issue.
In losing the Idaho lawmaker, the Gang has inarguably has lost one of its best conduits to the dominant conservative wing of the Republican Party in the House.
Should a comprehensive immigration package fail in the House, the outcome could well be attributed to the Democrats' insistence on Obamacare as part of the final deal.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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