The Congressional Budget Office said on Tuesday that an immigration reform package supported by House Democrats — virtually identical to the sweeping bill passed by the Senate last year — would cut the federal budget deficit by $900 billion over 20 years.
But the report was immediately attacked by Republicans for masking an "accounting gimmick" regarding Social Security taxes that would actually raise the deficit by $14 billion in the next decade.
The CBO, a nonpartisan federal agency that provides independent analysis of economic and budgetary issues, told House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi that the House bill lacked $38 billion for border security in the first 10 years that was included in the Senate bill, Roll Call reports.
The agency had estimated that the bill would save nearly $200 billion in the first decade and about $700 billion in the second.
But the forecast also assumed that the overhaul would increase the U.S. population by about 10 million people over a decade while legalizing an additional 8 million immigrants who were in the U.S. illegally, Roll Call reports.
Last June, the Senate passed a sweeping immigration reform bill on a 68-32 vote, with the backing of 14 Republicans. The legislation had been introduced by the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" senators that April.
The group included
Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Marco Rubio of Florida, both of whom voted in favor of the reform measure. The Democrats in the group were Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York and Dick Durbin of Illinois.
The bill called for increased border security and would have required illegal immigrants to pass criminal background checks, pay ﬁnes, learn English, and pay taxes before getting in line for citizenship, among other reforms.
But House Speaker John Boehner
has since said that the GOP-controlled lower chamber would not take an “Obamacare-like” approach to immigration reform, declaring instead that the House would take a “step-by-step, common-sense approach” to solving the problem of the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants.
Pelosi said the new CBO report proved that "now is truly the time to pass comprehensive immigration reform."
"With this sensible, bipartisan legislation, we can raise wages, empower our small businesses, spur innovation and create jobs," Fox News
quoted the California Democrat as saying.
"We can bring our broken immigration system into line with our history and our values: securing our borders, protecting our workers, uniting our families, and creating an earned pathway to citizenship," Pelosi said.
But Andrew Logan, a spokesman for Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, retorted:
"If House Democrats want to tout the CBO report, they’ve also got to acknowledge that CBO said the massive influx of mostly low-skilled workers would depress wages through 2024, boost unemployment through 2020, and reduce per-capita output through 2031.
"Furthermore, the CBO actually says that on-budget deficits go up, not down," Logan said.
"That’s because of a massive accounting gimmick whereby newly legalized workers’ Social Security taxes are not set aside for future Social Security benefits, but instead spent now on other benefit programs.
"If you take away that gimmick, the bill will increase deficits by $14 billion over the next decade," he said.
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