House negotiations over a proposed immigration reform deal could dissolve if an agreement isn't consummated by Friday, when Congress is scheduled to depart Washington for the Memorial Day recess, a key Republican warned late Wednesday.
Rep. Raul Labrador warned reporters late Wednesday that it was imperative that the bipartisan House immigration working group conclude negotiations and move forward with its plan before the recess. Otherwise, the conservative Idaho Republican said, he would be inclined to abandon the talks and pursue a GOP solution to the issue.
The House negotiators had agreed to a deal in principle late last week, and Republicans in the group are frustrated over Democratic delays.
The working group was scheduled to meet Thursday to determine if their deal is salvageable. Labrador said a bipartisan solution is preferable to Republicans going it alone on immigration reform, but that is exactly what they would do if Democrats back out last week's tentative deal. Democratic leaders' opposition to a provision that would require newly legalized immigrants to maintain private health insurance has jeopardized that agreement.
Labrador also said that Democrats are "sadly mistaken" if they assume that killing a bipartisan House bill would force the chamber to take up the Senate version, which many House Republicans believe is flawed. Actually, the Idahoan said, sinking the House bipartisan effort would ensure that the House moves forward on legislation that is influenced primarily by conservatives and even tougher than what the chamber's working group has developed thus far.
"I hope that we have Democrats of good faith that want to get something done," Labrador said. "We're going to have a House effort. The question is whether we're going to have a bipartisan House effort or a Republican House effort. I would rather have a bipartisan House effort, but if the Democrats are not willing to work with us, then we can do a Republican bill. And, it's going to be much different, and I don't think they're going to like it."
Labrador also had this to say about the politics of immigration reform and the Republican Party:
"Anybody who thinks that this is a political issue and that we're going to gain politically is sadly mistaken. This shouldn't be about politics; this should be about the right policy for the United States. It actually disheartens me every time I hear a Republican talking about politics with this. We're not going to win any votes if we do immigration reform, but we might actually do the right thing for America."