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Becerra Pushes Immigration Overhaul as Deficit Reducer Again

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Becerra hopes an increasing urgency to avert a government shutdown or debt limit showdown and the momentum for an immigration rewrite could lead to success for his plan.

Rep. Xavier Becerra has a plan for dealing with two thorny political problems at once this fall: bring down the national deficit by passing an immigration overhaul.

Itís an idea the House Democratic Caucus chairman has been pushing for years with little success, first during the Simpson-Bowles fiscal commission and then in his capacity as a member of the doomed supercommittee on deficit reduction.

ďAt that point, I think people were still just focused on the budget, the regular tools for fashioning a budget,Ē Becerra said in a recent interview with CQ Roll Call. ďThe idea didnít go very far. I raised it again, and again it didnít go very far, probably because we werenít having a very expanded discussion about immigration reform and a lot of people didnít know what it would mean to have an immigration bill and how it would fit in terms of the economy.Ē

But things are different now, Becerra continued. There is increasing urgency to avert a government shutdown or debt limit showdown with an aim to also curb spending, and the momentum for an immigration rewrite has grown following the 2012 elections.

ďEach issue is looking for some locomotion, and I certainly think any time you can add a trillion dollars of deficit reduction to fiscal negotiations, thatís pretty big,Ē Becerra said. ďAnd any time you can also give a jump-start to the reluctance of some on the Republican side to move on fixing the economy at the same time, I think thatís gotta help.Ē

He also has another tool in his belt: an analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation showing that the Senate-passed immigration overhaul bill would reduce the deficit by $158 billion over the next decade.

ďYou donít have to rely on my word or listen to me,Ē Becerra said. ďLook at the nonpartisan fiscal referee for Congress.Ē

Becerra didnít pretend it will be an easy sell. House Republican leaders have vowed not to take up the Senateís comprehensive immigration bill, instead opting for a piecemeal approach that will almost certainly involve exhaustive Judiciary Committee markups and amendment debates on the floor.

And immigration legislation has largely stalled while Congress deals with Syria and other budget matters, making it doubtful that an immigration agreement could be reached in time for inclusion in a stopgap spending bill that must be passed by Sept. 30 or a debt ceiling increase that needs to move by Oct. 15.

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