POLITICS
06/18/2013 06:10 pm ET Updated Jun 18, 2013

CBO Estimates Immigration Bill Would Shrink Deficit

AP

WASHINGTON -- The bipartisan immigration reform bill currently under consideration in the Senate would shrink the deficit by $197 billion over the next decade and $700 billion during the 10 years that followed, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated in a report released Tuesday.

The "gang of eight" bill, which lawmakers passed into the debate phase last week, would allow undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship, triggered by improvements to border security. It would also rework the legal immigration system and require more policing of unauthorized immigration within the United States.

The CBO report estimated that the bill, if passed, would lead to a net increase of 10.4 million people living in the United States by 2023. The economic impact is estimated to be largely positive. CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that the bill would decrease deficits by $197 billion and cost $22 billion to implement over the 2014-2023 period.

According to the report, over the next decade the bill would lead to a $262 billion increase in federal direct spending, including on Medicare and Obamacare. But it would also increase federal revenues by $459 billion, CBO estimated.

"This report is a huge momentum boost for immigration reform," gang of eight Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. "This debunks the idea that immigration reform is anything other than a boon to our economy, and robs the bill’s opponents of one of their last remaining arguments. Immigration reform is not only the right thing to do to stay true to our nation’s principles, it will also boost our economy, reduce the deficit and create jobs."

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney called the nonpartisan report "more proof that bipartisan commonsense immigration reform will be good for economic growth and deficit reduction."

The report looked beyond the 10-year period the CBO typically considers in estimating the cost of bills, which immigration reform opponents, like Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), encouraged. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that came under fire for a misleading study that put the cost of the bill at $6.3 trillion over the next 50 years, wrote in a blog post last week that it would be misleading if the CBO only looked at 10 years. The bill's impact changes significantly after the 10-year mark, when some undocumented immigrants would become legal permanent residents and eventually citizens, and when increased security measures likely would already be in place.

The CBO eventually opted to look at a 20-year period. By 2033, the CBO estimated a net population increase of 16 million. With spending and revenues combined, the bill would lead to a $700 billion decrease of the deficit between 2024 and 2033, according to the report.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), another member of the gang of eight, said the CBO score shows his arguments about the economic merits of reform were valid.

"The CBO has further confirmed what most conservative economists have found: Reforming our immigration system is a net benefit for our economy, American workers and taxpayers," he said. "There remain some key areas that need to be tightened up to prevent those who have violated our immigration laws from accessing federal benefit programs. But overall, the CBO report offers encouraging evidence that the status quo is unacceptable and we can end it without burdening our already burdened taxpayers and, in fact, reduce the deficit over the next 20 years."

UPDATE: 6:50 p.m. -- Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) brushed off the CBO report in a statement after its release.

"The bill’s drafters relied on the same scoring gimmicks used by the Obamacare drafters to conceal its true cost from taxpayers and to manipulate the CBO score. ... [T]he score effectively conceals some of the biggest long-term costs to taxpayers contained in this legislation, including providing illegal immigrants with Medicaid, food stamps, and cash welfare," he said.

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