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Coburn: CBO score on immigration bill 'smoke and mirrors'

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Sen. Tom Coburn on Wednesday questioned the accuracy of the Congressional Budget Office analysis showing the immigration bill will help the federal budget, saying the agency wasn’t able to properly count the effects of illegal immigrants on the economy right now.

The CBO said the Senate immigration bill will trim federal deficits by about $200 billion over the next 10 years and another $700 billion in the second decade, with taxes paid by newly legal immigrants and future workers far outstripping the taxpayer benefits they will earn.

But Mr. Coburn said most of those new taxes the immigrants will pay will go to Social Security, not to general government funds.

“Most of the claimed savings come into payment to the Social Security Trust Fund — that’s not even a part of the calculation of the deficit,” Mr. Coburn said Wednesday on Fox News. “So it has no effect on the deficit. It has an effect on the debt, but not on the deficit.”

He also questioned whether the CBO is able to calculate the current contributions of illegal immigrants accurately, which would affect how things would change if they got legal status.

“The fact is there’s a lot of these people who are undocumented and illegal today, are paying Social Security taxes because they are working under a false Social Security number,” he said. “And what they are doing is they’re not taking anything from Social Security because they’re not qualified. So I have a great deal of doubt about the numbers that have been put out.”

The CBO said legalizing illegal immigrants and bringing in workers will cost $262 billion in new tax credits and other spending, but that’s more than covered by the $459 billion in higher taxes paid by newly legalized illegal immigrants and future workers.

But Mr. Coburn said that “you can’t have it both ways.”

“You can’t say that Social Security’s in good shape and then say, ‘oh, by the way, this bill’s going to solve Social Security and claim it as deficit money as well,” he said. “So it’s smoke and mirrors from Washington.”

The CBO’s estimate also says the bill solves only about a quarter of the illegal immigration problem — a point Mr. Coburn said should be given more attention.

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