Sen. Hatch calls high-skilled worker shortage ‘a crisis'

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) this week outlined the Republican tech agenda for the next Congress, and took a position that puts him at odds with some in his own party.

Hatch, in a speech at the corporate offices of in Salt Lake City, called for raising the cap on H-1B visas. "Our high-skilled worker shortage has become a crisis," said Hatch, who heads the Senate Republican High-Tech Task Force.

To support the idea of a skilled-worker shortage, Hatch cited the high demand for H-1B visas. There were 172,500 petitions this year for the 85,000 visas available under the cap, he said.

"American companies were thus unable to hire nearly 90,000 high-skilled workers they need to help grow their domestic businesses, develop innovative technologies, and compete with international competitors," said Hatch, according to the prepared text of his remarks.

In sketching out his views on tech legislation, Hatch also talked about the need for patent litigation reform, updates to privacy protections, and incentives to businesses to encourage sharing of cyber-threat information. One incentive could be a form of liability protection.

But by arguing that H-1B demand is evidence of a high-tech worker shortage, Hatch is taking a position that runs counter to fellow Republicans, namely Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

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