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Immigration Reform Advocates Hail CBO Deficit Score

A Colombian immigrant takes her oral citizenship test at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in New York. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

The Morning Line

Funny thing about numbers. You often use them to bolster your argument, and dismiss them if they don’t.

Consider the Congressional Budget Office report out Tuesday regarding the immigration legislation up for debate on the Senate floor.

Supporters of the comprehensive bill that would overhaul the nation’s current system on Tuesday night embraced a new report from the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation estimating the effects of the plan.

Specifically, the CBO found that the measure would reduce the deficit by $197 billion over the next decade and $700 billion in the next 20 years. And 8 million of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States could find themselves on the pathway to citizenship.

Members of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” senators who drafted the legislation cited the report on the Senate floor, and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney hailed the “proof” found in the nonpartisan estimate.

“The Congressional Budget Office also made clear that passage of the immigration bill would not only reduce the deficit, it would increase economic growth for years to come,” Carney said. “By fixing our broken immigration system — and making sure that every worker in America is playing by the same set of rules and paying taxes like everyone else — we can grow the economy, strengthen the middle class, improve our fiscal outlook and create new opportunity for Americans everywhere.”

Of course, lawmakers and the White House frequently deride CBO estimates, when they don’t point to a conclusion they are trying to prove. The important thing to keep in mind is that these reports are indeed estimates. They get plenty of headlines, but don’t always pan out mathematically.

The CBO report came shortly after Speaker John Boehner made clear he wouldn’t violate what’s become known as the “Hastert Rule.” That means the Ohio Republican won’t ask members of his party to cast a vote on something the majority of them don’t support.

Boehner told reporters that he will discuss immigration legislation in “a special conference” with his Republican members on July 10 after the holiday recess. Then he added a statement that champions of the Senate measure said they found disturbing for overall prospects of the legislation:

I also suggested to our members today that any immigration reform bill that is going to go into law ought to have a majority of both parties’ support if we’re really serious about making that happen. And so I don’t see any way of bringing an immigration bill to the floor that doesn’t have a majority support of Republicans. But I just think the White House and Senate Democrats ought to get very serious.

Roll Call’s Steven Dennis and Emma Dumain frame the comments as the speaker attempting to cut off a “budding revolt.”

They write:

His remark seemed just shy of a vow to stick to the Hastert rule. He also did not answer a question on whether he would require a majority of the majority on a final conference report on an immigration bill. (A GOP aide later clarified that Boehner’s remarks did apply to a conference report as well.)

And Politico succinctly explains the political pressure on Boehner, and why the Hastert Rule matters on just about everything Congress is trying to get done.

Boehner spoke before the House Judiciary Committee late Tuesday approved an enforcement-only measure over the objections of Democrats.

Yahoo News’ Chris Moody, meanwhile, reports that House Republicans this summer “are planning a series of meetings with Hispanic-Americans in the nation’s capital as part of a partywide effort to woo minority voters.”

On the NewsHour, Ray Suarez reported on the House hearing and the latest votes on the Senate floor. Lawmakers who back the overall bill are sticking together to defeat bills that would require strengthened border security before a pathway to citizenship could be implemented. Then he interviewed Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., as part of our one-on-one discussions about the measure.

What does Paul make of Boehner’s announcement?

“I think that means the bill that will come up be a much stronger and better bill,” Paul said. He said it “gives leverage” to conservatives who want to see the legislation shaped with their ideals in mind.

“And this is coming from somebody who wants immigration reform. I think the system is horribly broken. If we do nothing, it’s a big mistake,” Paul said.

“So, I want to see immigration reform, but I want it to obey a rule of law with a secure border, with securing that the vote only goes to citizens, and that welfare only goes to citizens. If all these things are taken care of, I think both parties could get behind a bill like this.”

Watch here or below:

And you can learn more and keep track of the legislation on our Immigration page.


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Simone Pathe contributed to this report.

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