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H-1B Visa bill a done deal

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After sailing through the Senate by a margin of 96-1, the bill that would increase the quota for high-tech-worker visas went to the House where it was approved as well, again with only one nay vote. The bill will grant nearly 200,000 H-1B visas to foreign tech geeks for each of the next three years. The visas remain valid for six-year terms.

Critics of the measure worry that the bill will depress the price of US labour in the tech sector. But there are very few critics on Capitol Hill, where pandering to tech-sector concerns is a necessary performance for those in need of its lavish campaign donations.

Congressional Democrats had previously been stonewalling to get another piece of legislation attached to the H-1B bill which would increase grants of amnesty to illegal immigrants and offer permanent residency to more political refugees from Central America and the Caribbean, which the White House supports.

The President was set to veto the H-1B measure if the second bit wasn't added on, but in order to get the popular bill passed, Democrats chose instead to sustain a Presidential veto of an appropriations bill unless it includes the immigration package they'd previously tried to attach to the H-1B measure. The Dems reckon they have enough votes to sustain the veto, so Congress is more or less obligated to pass it with the Clinton-Administration add-on attached.

Still, with the legislative session so close to ending, there is always a possibility that things could go awry. If the appropriations-bill strategy fails, the President will be left with no vehicle for his second immigration bill. In that case he's welcome to veto the H-1B legislation out of pique, but it will do him no good, as it's clear now that there's adequate support in both Chambers to override it. ®

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