STEM Measure Defeated in the House

If you’re a seasoned observer of Capitol Hill, it probably comes as no surprise: less than a week after the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Lamar Smith (R-TX), released a bill to provide 55,000 green cards to foreign STEM graduates, the measure crashed and burned when it was brought to a vote. [See Bill to Keep Graduates in U.S. Fails in the House, by Julia Preston, New York Times, 20.Sep.2012.] According to the New York Times, the bill came to the floor under fast-track procedures that require a two-thirds majority to pass.

The sticking point was not unforeseeable. Congressional Democrats did not object to providing 55,000 additional green cards for foreign STEM graduates – indeed, they would like to do the same thing, and Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) have both released similar proposals. [See Dueling Immigration Bills: More Green Cards for Foreign Stem Grads? MurthyBlog, 24.Sep.2012.] As the New York Times reports, what really rankled Democrats was the way Smith sought to provide the new green cards: by taking them from the Diversity Visa program, which would have shut the program down. Neither the Lofgren nor the Schumer proposal takes this tack, but that doesn’t make their measures any more likely to break the current impasse.

Even the efforts of the bipartisan Partnership for a New American Economy were unavailing. PNAE has been trying to gin up support for a STEM visa fix, and recently released an open letter from 167 university presidents and chancellors, asking Congress and the President to grant green cards to foreign STEM grads. [See PNAE Letter, 13.Sep.2012.] The signatories represent universities in every state of the Union, and have a combined student body of more than 4 million students and a total endowment of over $240 billion. [See PNAE Press Release, 13.Sep.2012.] One might have hoped that a word from the wise – the people who actually produce said STEM graduates – might have been sufficient – not now, apparently.

With the last do-or-die weeks of campaign season closing in around them, don’t expect Congress to revisit this issue anytime soon – unless both sides can somehow reach an eleventh-hour compromise. Failing that, prospects are not favorable for the post-election lame duck session, either, when Congress will be preoccupied with the “fiscal cliff” and how to avoid it. Could we pencil this in for January, perhaps?

Copyright © 2012, MURTHY LAW FIRM. All Rights Reserved


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