House negotiators have spent the recess week trying to resolve the lingering differences standing in the way of a final immigration reform deal, a source familiar with the talks said Thursday.
The bipartisan immigration working-group reached a tentative agreement on almost every component of their proposed overhaul prior to departing for the extended Memorial Day break. That allowed congressional staff to spend the week drafting legislative language, which the eight members of the group plan to scrutinize before going public with their plan.
But before they reach that point, the working group will have to agree on whether illegal immigrants will have to maintain their own health insurance after being granted legal status. This is the only major issue left to be negotiated, the source familiar with the talks confirmed.
The four Democratic and four Republican members of the group had originally agreed to this provision, which is intended to ensure that millions of newly legalized immigrants do not end up accessing federal assistance and burdening taxpayers. But the Democrats balked late in the negotiations after their House leaders protested.
Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador, a key GOP negotiator, said last Thursday that he believed Democrats had dropped their opposition to the health care issue, which is somewhat of a deal breaker for the Republican members of the working group.
But the source familiar with the talks said that the matter was still being hammered out. Meanwhile, the bipartisan Senate bill to overhaul U.S. immigration is expected to hit the floor in that chamber the week of June 9, or after work on a farm bill is done.
The plan would probably be to clear the Senate immigration bill by the time Congress is ready to leave town for the July 4th recess, although such tentative deadlines are routinely missed on complicated and politically sensitive legislation.