The provision, in essence, said immigrants seeking citizenship must provide their own health care — and if any government entity provides them with services, they would be ineligible for permanent citizenship. The language was aimed at assuaging Republican concerns that the immigration bill would plunge the nation further into debt.

But as word spread, top Democrats — including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) — began to grow uncomfortable with the language their party drafted to prevent undocumented immigrants from taking advantage of government-subsidized health care.

Top Democrats are concerned that in emergency situations, for example, undocumented immigrants would be forced to undergo procedures that could bankrupt them, and eventually lead to deportation.

“They wrote it,” said Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), a member of the bipartisan group, referring to the initial language.

The situation is so tenuous that there have been constant Democratic leadership meetings with immigration negotiators — two in the past 24 hours.