DC Shuttle: Congress Ponders Visa, Loan Reform Bills as Cliff Fears Grow

STEM visa bill doesn’t move in Senate. While STEM Visa legislation passed the House of Representatives last Friday, the STEM Jobs Act was not considered by the Senate due to the objection of Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY). The bill passed the House by a near party-line vote of 245-139, and consideration by the Senate was proposed by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX). The bill would offer visas for skilled immigrants who earn advanced degrees from American institutions in science, technology, engineering or math, collectively known as STEM fields. Many Democrats are opposed to the bill because the 55,000 visas that would be designated for STEM graduates would be redirected from the diversity immigration program, eliminating that lottery visa program. Democratic proposals create 55,000 new visas for the program, such as would occur under legislation sponsored by Sen. Schumer (S. 3553) which he asked be considered. Though many Republicans support the STEM Jobs Act, there is general opposition to increasing the total number of visas allotted, and Sen. Cornyn objected to consideration of that bill. Republicans have supported moving immigration legislation piecemeal, suggesting that compromise is hard to establish, while Democrats and the administration have said they would like to see comprehensive immigration reform.

Student loan overhaul bill. Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI) announced plans to propose legislation that would overhaul the federal student loan system. He said he will introduce the bill next week, use the lame duck session to gather feedback, and reintroduce the bill in the next Congress with any necessary changes. Rep. Petri outlined the provisions of the bill, saying it would change borrowing into income-contingent student loans. He also said his bill would simplify the system by granting only one type of loan and eliminate loan forgiveness. Instead, interest would not be allowed to accrue above 50% of the loan amount. The bill also aims to simplify the loan system, and Rep.Petri said payments could be made by withholding salary and that this process could eventually be administrated by the Education Department and the IRS through tax forms.

Federal public education revenues and the sequester. A report released Tuesday by the American Association of School Administrators gives details of the effects of sequestration on K-12 education if a deal is not made to stop cuts by Jan. 1. The report uses data from every school district in the country to outline the effects cuts would have on different schools. It also suggests that low-income districts would be hit hardest. 

As a member of New England Council, we publish the DC Shuttle each week featuring higher ed news from Washington. This edition is drawn from the Council’s Weekly Washington Report Higher Education Update, of Dec. 10, 2012.

Founded in 1925, the New England Council is a nonpartisan alliance of businesses, academic and health institutions, and public and private organizations throughout New England formed to promote economic growth and a high quality of life in the New England region. The Council’s mission is to identify and support federal public policies and articulate the voice of its membership regionally and nationally on important issues facing New England. For more information, please visit: www.newenglandcouncil.com.


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