(WASHINGTON) — The House bipartisan “Gang of Eight” has reached an agreement in principle on immigration overhaul, including major points such as a pathway to citizenship, border security, health care and guest workers, a member of the group told ABC News Thursday night.
The lower chamber now expects to work out details next week before taking the Memorial Day break and introducing the bill June 4.
Over hoagie sandwiches, a two-hour meeting of a bipartisan group of congressmen nearly fell apart Thursday over who would pay for immigrant health care, the House “Gang” member said.
Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, was the last holdout, who had to call into the meeting from Idaho where his daughter had a recital, the member said.
Labrador, described as the most influential Republican in the House “Gang of Eight” because he represents Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s interests, finally agreed when language proposed by Democrats ensured that taxpayer money would not pay for immigrant health care.
Although not a member of the “Gang of Eight,” Wisconsin congressman and former vice presidential contender Paul Ryan was instrumental in bringing the Republicans along in the agreement.
The House bipartisan group that seemed to have stalled earlier Thursday announced it is finally moving forward on its own version of immigration overhaul.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters Thursday that he was “concerned that the bipartisan group has been unable to wrap up their work.”
”I know that there are some very difficult issues that have come up, but I continue to believe that the House needs to deal with this and the House needs to work its will,” he said. “How we get there, we’re still dealing with it.”
But Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., told reporters Thursday evening that the group has “an agreement in principle that we’re drafting.”
That agreement was struck after the two-hour meeting late Thursday afternoon.
“It is a very well-thought out, responsible, serious, enforceable proposal,” he said. “I feel really, really, really, really comfortable with the fact that this is a very complete bill, that fulfills what I’ve always wanted, which is to fix what’s broken.”
The whole package will now be run past their respective leadership and colleagues before the final language is finished and reviewed. But Diaz-Balart said the bill “is imminent.”
Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee has completed three days of markups and had addressed a total of 82 of the 300 amendments introduced to the legislation, which was written by the “Gang of Eight.” That meant they had earlier addressed more than a quarter of the amendments.
A spokesman for Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., told ABC News earlier Thursday that they were “making good progress and by far most amendments have passed on bipartisan basis.”
“Last week, we met for hours and worked through scores of amendments,” Leahy noted at Tuesday’s hearing. “Some termed our efforts ‘a lesson in democracy.’ Many noted that senators ‘showed a commitment to fairness and compromise.’”
A spokeswoman for the Senate Judiciary Committee said earlier Thursday that “Leahy has said he is committed to completing work on this bill by the end of next week.”
That’s good news for the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who promised again Thursday to bring the immigration bill to the floor of the Senate as soon as it’s ready out of committee.
“As soon as it’s ready, I’m going to bring that immigration legislation to the floor,” he said. “We’re going to start on the farm bill Monday. I’m going to bring the immigration bill to the floor regardless of whether we have committed action on the farm bill. Although immigration is a complex and controversial issue that deserves ample time for thoughtful debate and consideration, it’s also too important to delay action any longer.”
For a significant piece of legislation, such as this, many days in committee are not unusual.
According to Congressional Quarterly (CQ), the markup for the Affordable Care Act took 13 days and 60 hours.
CQ reported that committee members and staff believed the Affordable Care Act was the longest markup period ever for the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, with almost 500 amendments considered, compared to 300 on immigration.
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