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[Congressional Record: July 27, 2000 (Senate)]
[Page S7822]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:cr27jy00pt2-221]                         



 
                               H-1B VISAS

  Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, I rise today to express my frustration 
over the inability of the Senate to reach a unanimous consent agreement 
in regard to legislation that addresses the critical shortage of highly 
skilled workers in the information technology fields. On April 11, 
2000, the Senate's Judiciary Committee favorably reported out S. 2045, 
The American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act, by a vote of 16-
2. I am pleased to be an original cosponsor of this important 
legislation. Unfortunately, this legislation is now being held hostage 
because some of my colleagues in the Senate wish to attach unrelated 
amendments to the bill.
  There are very few remaining days left in this Congress. Before 
Congress adjourns for the year, we must pass the remaining 
appropriations bills, and have them signed into law. In addition, 
legislation extending Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China, and 
legislation reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, 
must be considered. Consequently, there simply is just not enough time 
for the Senate to debate numerous unrelated amendments on the H-1B visa 
bill.
  Mr. President, our country's burgeoning economy has resulted in an 
extremely low unemployment rate nationwide. While I am proud of our 
economy, and our low nationwide unemployment rate, there does exist a 
tight labor market in many fields, especially the information 
technology fields. One need only look in the classified section of the 
Washington Post to see how many high-tech jobs are available in 
Northern Virginia. This tight labor market makes it difficult for the 
high-tech industry to fill job openings, and this difficulty is 
compounded by the fact that our American education system, for one 
reason or another, is not producing enough individuals with the 
interest and skills for employment in the information technology 
fields. If these jobs our not filled, our economy will suffer, and 
these American companies will move overseas to fill their jobs.
  In 1998, Congress and the President recognized the serious effects 
that the tight labor market could have on the high-tech industry and 
our economy. In that year, Congress passed, and the President signed 
into law, legislation increasing the annual ceiling for admission of H-
1B nonimmigrants from 65,000 to 115,000 in fiscal year 1999 and fiscal 
year 2000, and 107,500 in fiscal year 2001. This 1998 act also imposed 
a $500 per visa fee to fund training and scholarships for U.S. workers 
and students.
  Nevertheless, despite increasing the H-1B ceiling just two years ago, 
that increase has proved to be woefully inadequate. In 1999, the H-1B 
visa ceiling was reached at the end of 9 months. This fiscal year, the 
ceiling was reached 6 months into the fiscal year. The effect of the H-
1B ceiling being reached before the year's end is that these jobs will 
remain unfilled, which in turn will only hurt our economy.
  The Senate Judiciary's Committee Report on S. 2045 states that the, 
``shortage of skilled workers throughout the U.S. economy will result 
in a 5-percent drop in the growth rate of the GDP. That translates into 
approximately $200 billion in lost output, nearly $1,000 for every 
American.'' The Committee cites other studies that indicate that a 
shortage of information technology professionals is costing the U.S. 
economy as a whole $105 billion a year. I also found Federal Reserve 
Chairman Alan Greenspan's testimony before the Senate's Banking 
Committee quite compelling. Mr. Greenspan endorsed S. 2045 in response 
to a question from Senator Phil Gramm, and then stated that, ``The 
benefits of bringing in people to do the work here, rather than doing 
the work elsewhere, to me, should be pretty self-evident.''

  Now, let me state clearly, it is my preference that these jobs in the 
information technology fields would be filled with Americans. However, 
due to the low unemployment rate and the lack of unemployed educated 
high-tech workers, filling the numerous openings in the information 
technology fields with Americans is simply not realistic. Therefore, to 
continue to propel our economy forward, we must pass legislation such 
as S. 2045 to fill these critical positions in our information 
technology sector.
  This legislation, though, does more than just increase the number of 
H-1B visas to temporarily fill the job openings in the high-tech 
industry that cannot be filled by Americans. This bill contains very 
important provisions that continue the imposition of a $500 fee per H-
1B visa petition. It is estimated that this fee, with the increase in 
the H-1B ceiling, will raise roughly $450 million over three years. 
This money will create 40,000 scholarships for U.S. workers and U.S. 
students, thereby helping them to choose education in these important 
fields. Our goal should be to fill these American jobs with trained 
American workers. These provisions of S. 2045 takes us toward that 
goal.
  Mr. President, in closing, I cannot overstate how important it is for 
our country's economy to raise the ceiling on H-1B visas, and to 
provide funding for the training of Americans to fill these jobs. I 
implore my colleagues to reconsider their demand for votes on unrelated 
amendments on this legislation. At this late stage in the Congress, 
demanding votes on unrelated amendments on this legislation will kill 
this important bill, leave very important jobs in the information 
technology sector unfilled, and ultimately, hurt our economy.

                          ____________________




							  


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