WASHINGTON - A bipartisan immigration bill pending in the Senate would strengthen the Social Security trust fund by adding millions of workers to tax rolls, and provide a boost to the overall economy, according to an analysis Wednesday by the Social Security Administration.
The finding came to Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who requested the analysis, from Stephen C. Gross, chief actuary for the agency.
It could provide a boost for the immigration bill, which has been attacked by some conservatives as overly costly, as the Senate Judiciary Committee prepares to take up the legislation for amendments and votes beginning today.
Meanwhile, a separate dispute loomed as religious leaders warned that adding a gay-rights provision to the immigration legislation could cost their support.
Gross' analysis said the immigration bill would boost Social Security's coffers by more than $240 billion over the coming decade and add $64 billion in new tax revenues to Medicare. It also would increase the size of the economy by a full percentage point by 2017, and increase employment.
Gross wrote that the overall effect of the bill on the long-range trust fund balance "will be positive."
Social Security has long-term financial problems because, as more people retire and live longer, there will be relatively fewer workers paying into the system.
In 1960, there were 4.9 workers paying Social Security taxes for each person getting benefits. Today, there are about 2.8 workers for each beneficiary, a ratio that will drop to 1.9 workers by 2035 under current law, according to projections by the Congressional Budget Office.
The actuary's letter suggests the immigration bill would slow this trend. Under the bill, there would be nearly 6.6 million more workers paying Social Security taxes in 2024, the actuary projects. That same year, there would be an additional 683,000 people getting benefits. That's nearly 10 additional taxpayers for each new beneficiary.
On the gay-rights issue, religious leaders issued a warning Wednesday about the impact on the immigration bill if Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., moves forward with an amendment to allow gay Americans to sponsor their foreign partners for U.S. residence like straight married Americans can.
"We're extremely hopeful that this bill will remain an immigration bill and not get tangled up with the issue of gay rights," said Richard Land, a leader of the Southern Baptist Convention,. "But if it did, if it did, the Southern Baptist Convention would not be able to support the bill."
Other religious leaders on the call echoed Land's warnings. Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, labeled the gay-rights provision "a divisive distraction that must not derail immigration reform."