U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, met with high-tech executives in Austin Thursday, characterizing the Affordable Care Act as “job-killing” and faulting immigration reformers in Congress for rejecting his amendment to increase by fivefold the number of H-1B visas for high-skilled temporary workers.
Talking to reporters after a closed-door meeting at National Instruments with the tech leaders, Cruz said graduate students in science, technology, engineering and math too often get a superb education in the United States but then take those skills back home with them – creating businesses and jobs in their native countries. Many, he said, would stay in the United States if there were more opportunities to get visas.
In the spring, Cruz sought to amend the so-called Gang of Eight comprehensive immigration reform plan to raise the cap on H-1B visas from 65,000 to 325,000. But Democrats rejected his amendment in committee on a party-line, 14-4 vote, and, Cruz said, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wouldn’t allow amendments on the floor. The legislation approved by the Senate in late June immediately raised the H-1B cap to 110,000 with the potential of eventually increasing it to 180,000.
The bill passed 68-32, with 14 Republicans joining all the Democrats in voting “aye,” and Cruz and the rest of the Republicans voting “no.”
The Cruz amendment was opposed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, which argued that, while the increase to 110,000 was OK, raising the cap even further would actually have the effect of shifting more jobs overseas, contending that “the top 10 companies using H-1B visas specialize in shipping American jobs offshore.”
On the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, Cruz said that small businesses were faced with a perverse incentive not to grow – and to turn to part-time workers instead of full-time employees – because of the law’s requirement that employers with more than 50 full-time employee must either provide health care or pay a penalty. The Obama administration has delayed implementation of the employer mandate until 2015.
Cruz is leading an effort to “defund Obamacare” by refusing to vote to fund the federal government past Sept. 30 if the continuing resolution includes even a penny for the health insurance reform law. So far, most of his Republican colleagues in the Senate have refused to sign onto Cruz’s crusade, and he said its success depends on a groundswell of support from millions of Americans in the next 39 days.
Later, Cruz was among the dignitaries cutting the ribbon at the grand opening of a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic on Metropolis Drive, which will now be renamed Veterans Way. During the ceremony, Cruz also paid homage to Richard Overton of East Austin, who served in the Merchant Marine during World War II and, at 107, is believed to be the oldest veteran in the United States.
From the VA clinic, Cruz was headed to Waco where the McLennan County Republican Club was holding a benefit for the town of West, site of a deadly fertilizer plant explosion in April.
On Friday, he will be speaking in New Hampshire, further stoking speculation that he plans to run for president in 2016.
On Thursday, he was asked if he would back Gov. Rick Perry, who is also contemplating a 2016 bid for president.
“I’m a big fan of Gov. Perry,” said Cruz, but he said it was “way premature to be worrying about 2016.”
Cruz also has said he learned this week that he has dual citizenship because he was born in Canada. He has said he plans to do what is necessary to relinquish his Canadian citizenship. As reporters were led out of the meeting with the tech executives so they could speak freely, Cruz teased the reporters that in their absence he would reveal that, “I am secretly a citizen of Ethiopia.”