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Cochran moves to block H-2B foreign worker visa regulations

Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran cosponsors amendment to stop the U.S. Department of Labor from implementing new regulations for a temporary foreign worker visa program that would make it harder for seasonal industries to survive.

Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran has cosponsored an amendment to again stop the U.S. Department of Labor from implementing new regulations for a temporary foreign worker visa program that would make it harder for seasonal industries, like shrimping, to survive.

Cochran is vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee that approved an amendment by Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby to delay for one year the implementation of two rules on the H-2B non-agricultural temporary worker program. The amendment was added to the FY2013 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (Labor-HHS) Appropriations Bill. 

Note: While the bill was approved by the committee, Cochran did not support the bill’s passage. The Senator is hopeful the FY2013 Labor-HHS measure can be further improved as it moves through the legislative process.

“I support the effort to delay funding for the implementation of two rules proposed by the Department of Labor which would harm employers across the nation who utilize the H-2B Temporary Worker Program,” Cochran said. “I question the merits of these new federal regulations, especially in the midst of an economy that is trying to gain traction. It seems to me that we should be looking to make it easier for small businesses to thrive, not making it more difficult.”

One rule would increase wage rates for H-2B workers by more than 50 percent. A delay of this rule was approved by Congress last year, but it expires Sept. 30. The second Labor Department rule would complicate the program for seasonal employers by imposing new recruitment and wage requirements for these temporary workers.

The Shelby amendment to delay the H-2B regulations was approved on a bipartisan 19-11 vote.

Since the changes were first proposed by the Obama administration, Cochran has received input from industries in Mississippi that are concerned about the detrimental effects the H-2B changes would have on them. The seafood, forestry, hospitality and other seasonal industries rely on the H-2B visa program to put together temporary, seasonal workforces.

On a separate front, Cochran is an original cosponsor of an H-2B resolution of disapproval (S.J.Res.38) introduced by South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. This measure, which is also cosponsored by Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker, is a legislative tool that can be used by Congress to disapprove a broad range of regulatory rules issued by federal agencies. Enactment of a disapproval resolution would stop a federal rule from taking effect and prohibit the agency from issuing a similar rule without subsequent statutory authorization.

An H-2B resolution of disapproval offered in the House of Representatives (H.J.Res.104) is cosponsored by Representatives Gregg Harper and Steven Palazzo, both of Mississippi.

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