UPDATE, 5:20 p.m.
Raul Labrador will miss consideration of 27 bills on the House calendar Wednesday to campaign for Mitt Romney in Miami, said Jake Ball, his district director. But Labrador will take a late flight back to Washington, D.C., late Wednesday and be back for votes on Thursday and Friday.
Labrador leaves Idaho before dawn Wednesday to fly to Florida to help Romney appeal to Hispanic voters. "He'll be in Miami less than 24 hours," Ball said.
Republican Rep. Raul Labrador told me Monday that he wants to help Mitt Romney as he appears on the most important Spanish-language media in the country Wednesday night, but won't do so if he can't get back to Capitol Hill in time for Thursday's votes.
"I don't want to miss two vote series in a row," Labrador said. The House convenes Thursday at 10 a.m. for morning business and noon for legislative business.
Romney is scheduled to appear in Miami at a Univision "Meet the Candidates" forum followed by a "Juntos con Romney" rally. Labrador is a leader in "Juntos con Romney." Labrador also said he's been asked to be nearby during Romney's interview with Univision's Jorge Ramos, and work the "spin room" afterward.
This morning, I took a look at the House floor schedule published by Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. Cantor lists 27 bills on Wednesday's calendar, including the Veterans Fiduciary Reform Act, the Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act, and the Border Security Information Improvement Act. Another measure would ban using public funds for party conventions and use the money for deficit reduction.
Labrador said he would be OK with missing Wednesday's votes, as long as he could be back early Thursday.
Thursday is important because the House could vote on the STEM Jobs Act of 2012, sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas. The measure, which is scheduled for 40 minutes of debate, is Smith's version of Labrador's H.R. 3146, the American Innovation and Education Act. Labrador's bill would amend immigration law to eliminate the foreign residency requirement for foreign students with a master's or higher degree in a field of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM degree) from a U.S. institution of higher education and a job offer from a U.S. employer.
Cantor's schedule doesn't specify whether the vote on STEM will be Thursday or Friday, instead listing it as one of three bills up for votes Thursday or Friday.
Asked if he could miss a vote on a bill he's cosponsoring, Labrador said, "No, I can't. I'm pretty excited about that one."
Labrador conceded on Monday that his Democratic opponent, Jimmy Farris, has a point in his criticism that Labrador's absence from House votes -- 4.7 percent -- is twice the rate of the typical congressman and three times that of Labrador's three predecessors.
The congressman said he'd have his staff let me know whether he'd be in Florida or not today. I'll update this post when I hear back.
UPDATE, with news release from Labrador's office on STEM Jobs Act, sent my way at 11 a.m.:
SMITH, GOODLATTE, LABRADOR INTRODUCE STEM JOBS ACT OF 2012
Bill eliminates random diversity visa lottery, addresses high-tech employment
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Idaho First District Congressman Raúl Labrador has introduced the STEM Jobs Act in conjunction with House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (TX-21) and Rep. Bob Goodlatte (VA-06). The legislation eliminates layers of bureaucracy in the visa process so that legal foreign students with advanced degrees from American universities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields can accelerate their transition into the American workforce when offered jobs from U.S. employers in high-tech fields.
The STEM Jobs Act eliminates the current diversity visa lottery program, which grants 55,000 visas at random, and makes those visas available to STEM graduates. The overall number of visas allocated will not be increased.
“The future of our economy is in the STEM fields,” Labrador said. “New printers from Hewlett Packard, new semiconductors from Micron and new phones from Apple all rely on retaining the world’s best and brightest students and harnessing their ingenuity to create jobs here in America. Even in an economic downturn, there aren’t enough U.S.-born graduates to meet the needs of high-tech employers. Right now foreign-born students are benefitting from our education system and then going home to compete with us. This legislation allows us to retain their skills and innovation. According to the American Enterprise Institute, every immigrant with an advanced STEM degree creates two to three new American jobs. We are replacing a broken, inefficient visa program with one that works, rewards innovation, and means jobs for our economy.”
House Majority Floor Leader Eric Cantor (VA-07) praised Labrador’s work on the STEM Jobs Act.
“Congressman Labrador has been instrumental in crafting this vital piece of legislation that will keep the best and brightest from around the world in the United States, and create jobs,” Cantor said. “America has always been a country where anyone from anywhere has a fair shot at earning success, and the STEM bill is part of that commitment to remove barriers, build a first-class workforce and make sure that the U.S. continues to compete in the global marketplace. This has long been a priority of ours, and I’m thrilled we’re taking action on it this week.”
The STEM Act solves a problem both parties have addressed. President Obama and Republican candidate for president Mitt Romney have both spoken of the need to reform high-tech immigration. A letter signed by more than 150 university leaders from all 50 states and sent to congressional leaders and the White House details support for visa reform and the need to retain high-tech graduates with advanced degrees. Boise State University President Robert Kustra is one of the signatories.
“The STEM Jobs Act makes our immigration system smarter by allowing the United States to retain the most talented foreign graduates of American universities in STEM fields,” Chairman Smith said. “These graduates have the ability to boost our economic growth and spur job creation for American workers and I thank Congressman Labrador for his work and invaluable support of this bill.”
The STEM Jobs Act builds on Labrador’s American Innovation and Education Act, introduced in October 2011.
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