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February 6, 2016

‘Gang of Eight’ Touts CBO Score on Immigration Bill (Updated)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 7:48 p.m. | Members of the Senate’s “gang of eight” were quick to praise the Congressional Budget Office’s review of the immigration bill now pending on the floor.

The CBO, in conjunction with the Joint Committee on Taxation, found that the Senate bill would slash the federal deficit by $197 billion over the next decade, according to a formal cost estimate. In an unusual move, the CBO projected the bill would reduce the deficit in the following decade by about another $700 billion.

“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. 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,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said in a statement.

“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,” he continued.

Democratic Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, another member of the gang of eight, was even more upbeat in his own statement.

“This report is a huge momentum boost for immigration reform. 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,” Schumer said. “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 also noted budget savings in the out years due to the Senate bill.

“Today, we have more proof that bipartisan commonsense immigration reform will be good for economic growth and deficit reduction: this time, in the form of a nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimate,” Carney said.

The CBO’s findings weren’t entirely positive in the short-term, however. The office does project a wage decline in the first years with the new population of legal workers. The decline would eventually be reversed, the CBO says.

“CBO’s central estimates also show that average wages for the entire labor force would be 0.1 percent lower in 2023 and 0.5 percent higher in 2033 under the legislation than under current law,” the CBO said. “Average wages would be slightly lower than under current law through 2024, primarily because the amount of capital available to workers would not increase as rapidly as the number of workers and because the new workers would be less skilled and have lower wages, on average, than the labor force under current law.

“The estimated reductions in average wages and per capita GNP for much of the next two decades do not necessarily imply that current U.S. residents would be worse off, on average, under the legislation than they would be under current law,” the CBO added in an economic impact analysis.

Update: Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions, the Senate’s most vocal critic of the gang of eight bill, slammed the CBO score for not taking into account a variety of other factors, including the education level of immigrants.

“CBO did not provide enough information to assess the assumptions it made about the educational background of illegal immigrants and thus their methodology may be substantially flawed. An accurate analysis would acknowledge that half of that population does not have high school degrees, and is therefore more likely to receive far more in government support than they will pay in the form of taxes,” Sessions said in a statement. “For every dollar a low-income illegal immigrant might pay in either taxes or payroll contributions, he or she could easily receive two dollars back from the government in the form of public assistance for their household.”

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