WASHINGTON (AP) — Supporters of a far-reaching immigration bill in the Senate see fresh momentum from a report by the Congressional Budget Office that says the measure would boost the economy and reduce federal deficits by billions of dollars.
Congress' nonpartisan scorekeeping agency said that the immigration bill would decrease federal red ink by $197 billion over a decade and $700 billion in the following 10 years as increased taxes paid to the government offset the cost of benefits for newly legal residents.
The White House said the report was "more proof that bipartisan commonsense immigration reform will be good for economic growth and deficit reduction."
On the Senate floor Wednesday, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., touted "$1 trillion reduction in our deficit if we pass this bill, which we will, here in the Senate."
The CBO assessment Tuesday came as the pace of activity increased at both ends of the Capitol on an issue that President Barack Obama has placed at the top of his domestic agenda.
Challenged by protesters chanting, "Shame, shame," House Republicans advanced legislation to crack down on immigrants living illegally in the United States, while the Senate lurched ahead on a dramatically different approach offering the hope of citizenship to the same 11 million people.
The bill approved late Tuesday by the House Judiciary Committee on a 20-15 party-line vote would make being in the U.S. illegally a federal crime punishable by prison time, instead of a civil offense as it is now. It also would empower state and local law enforcement officials to enforce federal immigration laws.
Republicans said the bill was needed to ensure enforcement of the law and said the legislation was a first step in an incremental approach toward solving the immigration issue, in contrast to the comprehensive approach being taken by the Democratic-led Senate. Many in the Republican-controlled House oppose tackling the immigration issue with a single, big bill.