WASHINGTON D.C. - On June 22, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee passed the fiscal 2017 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations bill after adding an H-2B returning worker exemption amendment offered by Reps. Andy Harris (R-MD) and Henry Cuellar (D-TX). The amendment would renew the returning worker exemption for one year.
This victory would not have been possible without our partners’ and members’ help educating Representatives in the House. (Ed. Note: PLNA members were a part of the coalition that traveled to Washington in May to lobby Congress on the need for these H-2B extensions.)
During the debate, Harris and Cuellar spoke about the importance of the program to seasonal businesses, as well as the program’s requirement that employers recruit and hire American workers before offering the positions to H-2B workers. DHS Subcommittee Chairman Carter (R-TX) and Reps. Farr (D-CA) and Stewart (R-UT) also spoke in favor of the provision. Subcommittee Ranking Member Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and Rep. Kaptur (D-OH) spoke against the amendment. The committee then adopted the amendment by a voice vote.
We still have a long journey to get the returning worker exemption and other regulatory relief signed into law. Last December, Congress combined several spending bills into a single “omnibus” appropriations bill. When this package was negotiated, Congress incorporated into the final spending package H-2B regulatory relief provisions from a Senate bill and returning worker exemption from the House bill. But they didn’t get there until December. We are pushing for the same outcome this year. However, the path is obscured by uncertainty on whether, when, and how Congress approves a final omnibus spending bill.