Fuzzy Math: CBO Says Immigration Bill Reduces Federal Deficit


Immigration Bill

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its long-awaited report on Tuesday detailing what it estimates the costs of the “Gang of Eight” immigration bill would if it were to become law.

CBO estimates if the bill passed into in current form, it would reduce the federal deficit by $175 billion over its first ten years. Over the next ten years following, CBO estimates the bill would decrease the federal deficit by another $700 billion. "The increase in the number of legal residents stemming from the bill would boost direct spending for federal benefit programs; direct spending for enforcement and other purposes also would rise," the CBO said in its report. "Under the bill, federal revenues would be higher as well, mostly because of the larger size of the labor force."

CBO’s analysis is quite different from the conservative Heritage Foundation report from analyst Robert Rector. That report estimates that an immigration reform bill like S. 744 (it did not specifically measure this bill, but conducted an analysis based on the general concepts of the bill) would add $6.3 trillion to the deficit overall. The Heritage report takes estimates far past the 20-year window CBO used in this report, which may account for some of the discrepancy, but the Heritage Foundation is planning an event on Wednesday where Rector and the Senate Budget Committee Republicans’ chief economist William Beach will explain the CBO analysis.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, said in a statement that the Gang of Eight used the same “gimmicks” Democrats used to hide Obamacare’s true costs in a CBO score.

“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,” Sessions said. “There is a reason why eligibility for the most expensive federal benefits was largely delayed outside the 10-year scoring window: to mislead the public. As Ranking Member of the Budget Committee, I asked CBO to provide a long-term estimate. Sadly, CBO did not provide the long-term estimate as requested. As a result, the 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. Some members of Congress are already pushing efforts to expedite this eligibility.”

Gang of Eight member Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) almost instantly praised the CBO report’s release, issuing a statement: 

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. 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.

Editor's note: this article claimed the CBO estimate for deficit reduction was $197 billion over ten years, not $175 billion. We have corrected the error.


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