What: All Issues : Making Government Work for Everyone, Not Just the Rich or Powerful : Immigration Law Reform : HR 2669. (Student loans reconciliation) Procedural question on whether to increase the cap on certain visas, particularly for immigrants with graduate degrees/On the motion (2007 senate Roll Call 266)
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HR 2669. (Student loans reconciliation) Procedural question on whether to increase the cap on certain visas, particularly for immigrants with graduate degrees/On the motion
senate Roll Call 266     Jul 19, 2007
Progressive Position:
Nay
Progressive Result:
Win

This vote was on allowing an amendment by John Cornyn, R-Texas, that would increase the cap on H-1B visas (those issued to highly skilled workers) to 115,000 for fiscal 2008. It would require that 20,000 of those visas be reserved for immigrants who have graduate degrees from a school in the United States. The amendment was offered to a bill that seeks to overhaul student loans.

Cornyn said his amendment is necessary to help bolster America's flagging global competitiveness when it comes to areas where advanced degrees are necessary, particularly in math and science. "No one disputes that a key part of America's economy is our ability to innovate and retain the most qualified workers, especially in areas such as math, science, and engineering," Cornyn said.

Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said that Cornyn's amendment increases the number of H-1B visas, but includes nothing to safeguard against abuses of the system. "We need a balanced and coordinated approach that increases the numbers with the safeguards. Unfortunately, Senator Cornyn's amendment does not do that, and I urge my colleagues to oppose it."

Durbin then used a procedural motion to try to defeat Cornyn's amendment as not related (or "germane") enough to the underlying bill. In some cases, when portions of a bill violate certain congressional rules, the bill can be quickly defeated with these procedural motions unless the Senate votes to waive the rule in question. One of these Senate rules requires that amendments be related to the subject of the bill itself. When Durbin moved to have the amendment defeated on the grounds that it was not "germane" enough to the underlying bill, Cornyn called a vote on waiving that Senate rule for his amendment, which is what this vote was on.

Though 55 voted to waive the rules and 40 voted aganst waiving the rules, this particular type of motion requires a three-fifths majority of the Senate (60 votes) to be considered approved. All but two Republicans present voted to waive the rules and allow Cornyn's amendment (Jeff Sessions of Alabama and George Voinovich of Ohio). Most Democrats present, including the Senate's most progressive members, voted against waiving the rules, though nine voted yes. Thus, the waiver motion was defeated, and as a result Cornyn's amendment that would have increased the cap on the number of H-1B visas was killed.

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