The United States Senate interrupted its recess to convene for a special session on Thursday morning to pass by “unanimous consent” the border security bill that includes the controversial provision penalising companies, mainly Indian information technology firms, that have more than 50 per cent of their employees on H1B and L1 work visas.
The brief session was presided over the New York Senator Chuck Schumer, the person who co-sponsored the original Bill and described Infosys as a “chop shop” in his remarks.
The Senate resorted to a process of “hotlining” to ensure passage of the Bill without requiring all Senators to be present. That meant all the absent Senators had been contacted in advance and none had blocked it or sought floor time to debate it.
This was the second time in a week that Congress broke from recess to pass the legislation. Earlier, on Tuesday, the House of Representatives reassembled in Washington to pass the Bill through a voice vote.
The Senate had actually passed an identical Bill last Thursday but since revenue-generating legislation has to come from the House, the new Bill, with the same provisions, was returned to the Senate as a House Resolution.
Given the politically sensitive nature of the Bill, Senate leaders called for quick passage of the Bill and the special session was arranged.
The Bill carries a price tag of $600 million of which the major portion is expected to come from the penalties, by way of increasing visa fees for such companies by more than $ 2000 per application.
The Bill now only needs to be signed into law by US President Barack Obama and that may well happen within days despite protests from the Indian Government and industry as well as leading US industry associations like the US Chamber of Commerce and the US India Business Council.