House Fails STEM Bill

Legislation aimed at retaining foreign students who earn advanced science and engineering degrees in the United States is rejected by Congress.

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef (an unusual nickname for Jennifer) got her master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses. After four years of diving off the Gulf...

View full profile.

Learn about our editorial policies.

Sep 21, 2012

The H.R. 6429 bill would have been a boon to science, as well as the economy, experts said. It would have created a new visa category for foreign students with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM), allowing them to stay in the country after finishing school, continuing to contribute to US-based innovation and technology advances. But the House of Representatives disagreed, voting the bill down with 257 votes for and 158 votes against—20 votes short of the necessary two-thirds majority.

“Under the current system, we educate scientists and engineers only to send them back home where they often work for our competitors,” said the bill’s chief sponsor, Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), during debate on the measure, according to ScienceInsider. But many Democrats objected to provisions in the Republican-backed plan, arguing that the bill discriminated against foreign families trying to join their relatives who have...

“Democrats strongly support STEM visas, and we believe there is a unique opportunity here to craft a balanced, bipartisan bill that can pass the Senate,” Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), who has introduced a similar bill, said in a statement to colleagues before yesterday’s vote. “But the Republicans have instead chosen to rush a partisan bill that has no chance of becoming law to score political points."