Tech companies push for high-skilled immigration bill
September 20, 2012
Jennifer Martinez and Brendan Sasso
Tech trade groups are putting on a full-court press for House members to vote for Rep. Lamar Smith's (R-Texas) STEM Jobs Act, which faces a tough vote in the House on Thursday.
The Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Consumer Electronics Association and other trade groups sent letters to House members Wednesday afternoon urging passage of Smith's bill.
"Hiring advanced degree STEM professionals is a key to creating and retaining jobs in a variety of sectors in our innovation economy," the letters read. "These are highly educated professionals who will create jobs wherever they settle, whether in the U.S. or elsewhere."
ITI said the trade group may consider scoring votes on the STEM Jobs Act in a key-vote letter to House leaders on Wednesday.
Smith's bill, the STEM Jobs Act, will be voted under suspension of the rules, meaning it will require two-thirds support in the House to pass.
Getting those votes will be a tough feat for Smith, as the bill has come under fire from several House Democrats and the Congressional Tri-Caucus, which includes the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. The major sticking point they have with Smith's bill is that it would eliminate the diversity visa program, which they argue is a legal path for immigration to the U.S.
By eliminating those diversity visas, Smith would reallocate up to 55,000 green cards a year to foreign-born graduates with doctorates in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines from U.S. universities. Any remaining visas would be available to graduates with master's degrees.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) has a competing measure that has gained Democratic support. Her bill is similar to Smith's but includes a few changes — notably, it keeps the diversity visa program in place.
Senate to mark up privacy bill: The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to mark up a House bill on Thursday that would loosen video privacy regulations.
The bill, which passed the House last year on a vote of 303 to 116, would update the Video Privacy Protection Act to allow Facebook users to opt in to automatically share which videos they have watched online.
Currently, users of Facebook and other social media sites can choose to automatically reveal which songs they listen to and which articles they read. But the Video Privacy Protection Act bans the sharing of any video history information without written consent by the consumer or a warrant from the police.
The change in the privacy law is currently Netflix’s top lobbying priority in Washington.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, supports the change, but he is also looking to add language to the bill that would require police to obtain a warrant before seizing emails or other forms of electronic communication.
The move is Leahy’s latest attempt to enhance the protections of the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA).
But Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the panel’s top Republican, has expressed skepticism about creating new barriers for police investigations.
At its Thursday markup, the Senate Judiciary Committee will also vote on the nomination of William Baer to be an assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. The committee is also scheduled to mark up the Patent Law Treaties Implementation Act sponsored by Leahy, Grassley and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).
Future of Homeland Security hearing: The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing Thursday morning that will assess the Department of Homeland Security and its roadmap for the future. Slated to testify are Richard Skinner, formerly the inspector general for DHS, Frank Cilluffo, the director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at The George Washington University, and Stewart Baker, a partner at Steptoe Johnson and former assistant secretary for policy at DHS. Committee Chairman Pete King (R-N.Y.) said in a statement that the committee hopes to “receive testimony on potential future reforms to ensure that DHS is effective at securing the homeland from another terrorist attack.”
IP hearing: The House Judiciary Committee’s Intellectual Property subpanel is holding a hearing Thursday afternoon titled “International IP enforcement: Opening markets abroad and protecting innovation.” Witnesses have yet to be announced.
Senate panel opposes UN Internet regulation: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved a resolution on Wednesday opposing international efforts to give a United Nations agency more control over the Internet.
The House approved a counterpart resolution last month.
Former Netflix lobbyist joins Patton Boggs: Michael Drobac, the former director of government relations at Netflix, is joining Patton Boggs to serve as a senior policy adviser in the firm's technology and communications group.
Library of Congress unveils new bill-tracking site to replace THOMAS: The Library of Congress on Wednesday unveiled Congress.gov, a new site to allow members of the public to learn about past and pending legislation.
The site, which offers bill summaries, bill texts and vote tallies, will eventually replace THOMAS, Congress's current legislative database.
Cybersecurity order is 'close to completion': Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Wednesday said the cybersecurity executive order that the White House is drafting is "close to completion."
At a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, Napolitano said the executive order is "still being drafted in the inter-agency process" and "is close to completion depending on a few issues that need to be resolved at the highest levels."
She said the draft order still needs to be reviewed by President Obama.
Oracle and Nokia join anti-Google lobbying group: Oracle, Nokia and and Allegro on Wednesday joined FairSearch, a lobbying group that is urging regulators to crack down on Google.
Rockefeller asks Fortune 500 CEOs to weigh in on cybersecurity debate: Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) on Wednesday sent letters to every CEO of Fortune's top 500 companies — including Apple, Cisco, Amazon, Oracle and Google — asking them to outline what measures their companies have in place to protect their computer systems from cyber attacks.
Rockefeller said he wanted to hear the chief executives' views "without the filter of Beltway lobbyists," and argued that a cybersecurity bill by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) was filibustered last month "largely due to opposition from a handful of business lobbying groups and trade associations, most notably the United States Chamber of Commerce."
Internet Association launches: Facebook, Google, Amazon and eBay are joining forces to protect their interests in Washington. The companies, along with other Silicon Valley giants, formally launched a new lobbying group, the Internet Association, on Wednesday. The other founding members of the association are AOL, Expedia, IAC, LinkedIn, Monster, Rackspace, salesforce.com, TripAdvisor, Yahoo and Zynga.