By Senator Jerry Moran
In Washington, D.C., conventional wisdom says nothing gets done during an election year -- and thus far Congress and the President have proven that wisdom correct. With more than 23 million Americans unemployed, elected officials have been more concerned with keeping their own jobs than with getting Americans back to work.
But, in the waning days of a campaign season ripe with partisan division, there is a glimmer of hope. During the second Presidential Debate at Hofstra University, Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama found common ground -- agreeing that highly skilled, entrepreneurial immigrants create jobs for Americans.
"We should give visas to people who graduate with skills that we need. People around the world with accredited degrees in science and math, [should] get a green card stapled to their diploma," Gov. Romney said.
"They provide us innovation, and they start companies like Intel and Google, and we want to encourage that," President Obama added.
Perhaps the candidates for president agree because three-quarters of Americans already support allowing STEM graduates with masters or doctorates to stay in the Unites States where they can start businesses and employ Americans. Voters understand that entrepreneurs -- both American and foreign-born -- and the businesses they build are responsible for creating nearly every net new job in the United States since 1980. But for all the agreement, Washington has been unable to pass legislation that welcomes talent from abroad and helps the entrepreneurs in America who create an average of 3 million jobs a year.
With two months left in the legislative calendar, the lame-duck session this winter offers our last chance to keep 2012 from being another missed opportunity. Once the election is behind us, the President-elect should work with Republicans and Democrats to do what wasn't done in the JOBS Act. Passing legislation to jumpstart the economy and create jobs through a dose of entrepreneurship, innovation and free markets cannot wait until after Inauguration Day.
The good news is the solution has already been introduced and is ready for a vote tomorrow. It's called Startup Act 2.0.
Startup Act 2.0 is the strongest, most comprehensive jobs bill on the table, and it's the only approach to high-skilled immigration reform with real bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. By contrast, the STEM Jobs Act had only one Democratic cosponsor when it was brought up for a failed vote in the House.
Startup Act 2.0 provides new opportunities for highly educated and entrepreneurial immigrants to stay in the United States where their talent can fuel economic growth and create jobs. By making new visas available for foreign students who graduate with an advanced degree in a STEM field from an American university, Startup Act 2.0 will provide a much-needed way for fast-growing startups and businesses in America to get the talent they need to continue to grow and create jobs.
Startup Act 2.0 also creates an Entrepreneur's Visa, something other countries have already created and immigration experts say is key to attracting foreign talent. This new visa would allow foreign-born entrepreneurs already legally in the United States to stay here if they are able to raise $100,000 in capital to start a business and hire at least two American workers.
Recognizing that job-creating startups need more help than just access to talent, Startup Act 2.0 also addresses government regulation, makes common sense changes to the tax code that will help facilitate investment in startups, and accelerates the commercialization of university research. A comprehensive approach focused on unleashing the entrepreneurial power of individuals will provide our economy with the jump-start it needs.
Other countries recognize the importance of entrepreneurs to their nation's economy, and while America's elected officials have been busy campaigning, these nations are aggressively attracting and supporting the highly skilled individuals needed to generate more companies and create jobs. Since the beginning of the current Congress in January 2011, at least seven countries have adopted new laws to attract and better support entrepreneurs from around the world -- and the United States is falling further behind.
We've heard excuse after excuse as to why nothing can get done until after the election, but Election Day will soon be behind us and not acting should not be an option. Startup Act 2.0 is a rare opportunity for bipartisan agreement during the lame duck session. It is the only proposal that contains jobs and high-skilled immigration provisions supported by both Governor Romney and President Obama. For the sake of the American economy, the man elected on November 6 should turn talk into action and support the passage of Startup Act 2.0.