GOP Rep. Raul Labrador's H.R. 6429 was considered under suspension of rules Thursday as the House presses to recess until after the election.
The measure, coauthored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., failed to receive the required two-thirds vote, dying on a 257-158 count. Thirty Democrats joined 227 Republicans in backing the measure.
Idaho's other congressman, Republican Mike Simpson, was not recorded as voting. Nikki Watts, Simpson's spokeswoman, said, "He did in fact vote 'yes.' For some reason it didn't register. We are looking into the matter and will clarify it for the record."
The measure was very important to Labrador, who returned to the Capitol Thursday from a campaign appearance with Mitt Romney in Miami aimed at Hispanic voters. Labrador, an immigration lawyer, promised during his 2010 campaign to try and find middle ground on immigration reform.
Called the STEM Jobs Act of 2012, the measure 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.
The measure builds on Labrador's H.R. 3146, the American Innovation and Education Act, introduced last year.
Simpson said the measure could be revived during the lame-duck session after the election, which would require action by the Rules Committee to bring the measure back to the floor for passage on a simple majority vote.
A Tuesday news release on the bill from Smith, Goodlatte and Labrador follows:
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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