House immigration group's negotiators narrow differences

House negotiators in a bipartisan immigration group have narrowed their differences ahead of a climactic meeting Thursday in search of comprehensive legislation, a Republican member said.

Rep. John Carter (R-Tex.) told reporters off the House floor that lawmakers planned to introduce a “mostly bipartisan” immigration measure by the first week of June and would meet later Thursday to discuss the last remaining sticking point: healthcare.

“After the last conversation I just had on the floor, I feel like we’ve got some momentum going forward to get our bill on the floor before the Senate bill gets over here,” Carter said after talking with two Democrats he would not name. He clarified that a floor vote would not come until after it went through the House Judiciary Committee.

His comments were considerably more optimistic that his remarks on Wednesday, when he and another Republican in the group, Rep. Raúl Labrador (Idaho), suggested negotiators had reached an impasse.

“I’m feeling better,” Carter said.

Republicans in the group are feeling a time crunch because of the increasing possibility that the Senate will pass its bipartisan bill sometime in June, putting considerable pressure on the House.

“The Senate bill is a nonstarter in the House,” Carter said.

Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerLast Congress far from ‘do-nothing’ Top aide: Obama worried about impeachment for Syria actions An anti-government ideologue like Mulvaney shouldn't run OMB MORE (R-Ohio) wants the House to put its own stamp on immigration and has urged Republicans to get their proposal out in the next several weeks, aides said.

“I am concerned that the bipartisan group has been unable to wrap up their work,” BoehnerJohn BoehnerLast Congress far from ‘do-nothing’ Top aide: Obama worried about impeachment for Syria actions An anti-government ideologue like Mulvaney shouldn't run OMB MORE said earlier Thursday at a Capitol news conference. “I know that there are a couple issues that have come up, and I continue to believe that the House needs to deal with this, and the House needs to work its will.”

The bipartisan coalition has met in secret for more than four years, but had stalled in recent weeks over two key issues: a temporary guest worker program and the treatment of immigrants under the 2010 healthcare law.

Democrats have said they are bound by a guest worker agreement struck by business and labor groups that formed the basis for language in the bipartisan Gang of Eight bill in the Senate. House Republicans have balked at the visa caps in that deal, and Carter said the group had essentially agreed to postpone a fight over the guest worker program until the legislation reaches the House Judiciary Committee or the floor.

“We’re basically going to leave it open,” Carter said. “They’re going to offer that. We’re going to offer what we would prefer to have and not be bound by that agreement. It will be determined either in committee or on the floor.”

On healthcare, Carter said the group would consider multiple “viable” options at its meeting Thursday night.

“We’re now down to getting some serious proposals,” Carter said.

Democrats have already agreed that immigrants with provisional legal status should not be eligible for benefits under the healthcare law, but Republicans want to put in place requirements that immigrants provide their own insurance and are not a burden to federal, state or local governments.

“We’re trying to make this as non-taxpayer funded as possible, on any level, including local,” Carter said.