Sessions: Ten-year scoring of Senate immigration reform bill inadequate

Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, has urged the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to consider the costs of immigration reform beyond the next decade.

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Sessions is concerned the CBO will dramatically underestimate the costs of comprehensive immigration reform by only projecting its costs over the next decade.

He argues that the biggest costs will kick in after the 10-year window typically used in CBO cost analyses.

“It is crucial that your fiscal and economic projections extend well beyond the current 10-year budget window,” Sessions wrote in a letter to CBO Director Doug Elmendorf.

“Given the long time period over which the key elements of this bill are implemented, I cannot imagine a circumstance in which a 10-year scoring of S. 744 would be deemed adequate for guiding the policy decisions that Congress will confront,” he wrote.

The Heritage Foundation released a report earlier this month projecting the Senate immigration reform bill would add $6.3 trillion to the federal deficit over the lifetimes of immigrants put on a 13-year path to citizenship.

The conservative think tank estimates the bulk of those costs would occur after an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants gain citizenship and become eligible for Medicare and means-tested federal welfare programs.

Sessions urged the CBO to conduct microeconomic analysis of the labor market to determine how an influx of millions of legal workers would affect citizens, who might lose jobs and become more reliant on federal assistance.

“I cannot conceive of a way for you to estimate outlay changes stemming from implementation of S. 744 unless you first determine how the law will affect labor markets,” Sessions wrote.

“If, on the one hand, more immigrants with low skills dislodge low-skilled native-born workers, then mandatory outlays should go up. If they don’t, then other infrastructure costs supported by the federal budget will rise. Either way, the microeconomic work is central to your fiscal analysis,” he added.

Members of the Senate’s Gang of Eight, which crafted the bill, expect to receive a score from the CBO in the next few days. They expect the budget agency’s report will show the bill not adding to the federal deficit over the next decade.

--This report was updated at 4:29 p.m.