WASHINGTON – A Republican lawmaker has abandoned a key bipartisan congressional group working on immigration reform after reaching an impasse with his colleagues over whether people living in the United States illegally should be eligible for health care.
Republican Congressman Raul Labrador of Idaho quit the influential so-called "House Gang of 8," a group of eight lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives working toward sweeping immigration legislation.
Labrador made the announcement after a late meeting Wednesday night at the capitol where lawmakers couldn't resolve the health care disagreement to his liking.
"We just have a different philosophy," Labrador told Fox News, noting that it might be a deal-breaker.
"I believe health insurance is an individual responsibility. This might be the issue that breaks down immigration. It's all about who is responsible to pay," Labrador said.
The issue had hung up the group for weeks as Labrador pushed to ensure immigrants here illegally paid for all their own care and not tax payers. An issue, he said, he could not find a way to agree with the Democrats on.
"When I joined the group, I was told that the aliens would have to pay for their own healthcare," Labrador said. "For me that was an easy decision. And as we have gown throughout I always thought they'd pay for it. Now that has changed. And I can't agree to all of the exceptions."
The first Latino Republican representative in Idaho's history believes when immigrants are granted a status they should not deserve "special exceptions" and once they reach citizen status the U.S. should "treat them like anyone else."
"If we can't agree on language on healthcare, we have a long way to go," Labrador of Idaho said to Fox News. "It's wonderful for them to continue forward because they've been working together. But I think there's a better way."
So if he can't join them, he decided perhaps better to beat them -- by going solo.
Labrador is now moving forward with his own House immigration bill.
Apparently the rest of the gang is sticking around, even with Labrador out.
GOP Rep. John Carter of Texas said the group of eight Representatives will find a way to continue its work.
"The now-Gang of 7 will now forge ahead," Carter told Fox News.
Another group member agreed, acknowledging the health care issue remains a conundrum but noting there's consensus on many other contentious issues.
"We have an agreement on about everything else," said Democrat John Yarmuth of Kentucky..
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.