After supporters of the Senate immigration reform bill got a boost from a new report estimating that the bill would substantially decrease the federal budget deficit over the next two decades, conservative opponents of the legislation pushed back Wednesday, saying the legislation would fail to stop illegal immigration, decrease American wages and hurt the Republican Party.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated in a report Tuesday night that the bill would decrease federal budget deficits by $197 billion between 2014 and 2023 and by an additional $700 billion from 2024 to 2033.
But opponents of the bill questioned the CBO’s credibility and pointed out other less favorable data in the agency’s findings.
“CBO doesn’t exactly have the best track record,” said Robert Rector, the Heritage Foundation analyst who authored a report on the legislation’s impact earlier this spring. “CBO is the institution that told us that Obamacare wouldn’t cost us any money, and it used the same kind of tricks it’s using today.”
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas concurred in an appearance on Rush Limbaugh’s radio program. “If there’s one thing Washington knows how to do, it’s to come up with bogus cost estimates,” he said.
Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, another leading GOP critic of the bill, seized on the CBO’s admission that the bill would result in depressed wages and slightly higher unemployment in the short term as the labor supply increased with an influx of new workers. (The report indicated that those effects would abate by about 2025.)
“It's going to raise unemployment and push down wages," Sessions said Tuesday. “The impact will be harshest for today's low-income Americans. Meanwhile, the 21 million Americans who can't find full-time work will have an even harder time getting a job and supporting their families."
And opponents pointed out that the CBO report also estimated that, under the Senate bill, “the net annual flow of unauthorized residents would decrease by about 25 percent relative to what would occur under current law.”
That’s not nearly enough for border security advocates who want assurances that illegal immigration will effectively end after passage of reform legislation.
A group of GOP senators are currently in talks to develop an amendment to the Gang of Eight bill that could appease Republicans on border security while retaining sufficient support from bill drafters and the Democratic majority in the upper chamber. But, with those negotiations ongoing, conservatives staunchly opposed to the immigration bill have continued making their case and directed constituents to lobby against the measure.
On Wednesday, the Senate voted down an amendment from Sen. Rand Paul that would have required Congress to certify that border security measures are being met before allowing undocumented immigrants to begin the legalization process. The vote was 61-37.
Cruz, during the Limbaugh interview, urged the conservative host’s listeners to contact their representatives in Congress about the Gang of Eight legislation, which he called “a disaster.”
The Cuban-American senator from Texas also disputed the idea that Republicans must work towards comprehensive immigration reform to repair damage done to the party’s brand with the growing bloc of Latino voters, who overwhelmingly supported President Barack Obama in the 2012 election.
“After 2012, all of the Washington political consultants and all of the mainstream media came to Republicans and said ‘You’ve got to do better with Hispanics, and the way to do better with Hispanics is to embrace amnesty,'” Cruz said. “And, look, a lot of Republicans in Washington are scared.
“I think that political argument is complete nonsense,” he added.