Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican representative who authored the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), was selected Wednesday as the Chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee for the upcoming Congress.
Smith will move to his new role in January when the next Congress begins. The Science committee is charged with overseeing NASA and non-military research and development.
“As Chairman of the Science Committee, I will be an advocate for America’s innovators by promoting legislation that encourages scientific discoveries, space exploration and the application of new technologies to expand our economy and create jobs for American workers,” Smith said in a statement.
Smith is well-known in the technology community, but perhaps for all the wrong reasons. SOPA, intended to address the problem of content pirating on the web, was widely assailed as a threat to the free and open nature of the Internet. Millions of Internet users signed a Google-sponsored petition against the bill urging Congress to vote down the legislation. Enough public pressure mounted that Smith chose to withdraw the bill.
Smith is also the author of the STEM Jobs Act, an immigration reform package that provides more visas to foreign students receiving degrees in advanced subjects. The bill would also allow for spouses and children of legal permanent residents to live in the U.S. while awaiting a green card. Additionally, it drastically changes the way the U.S. assigns visas, a process currently based on a lottery and quota system.
Many in the technology community have long called for some type of STEM visa. However, some of this bill’s naysayers argue that the proposed visa reform would reduce the number of immigrants granted visas from particular parts of the world, particularly Africa. The Obama administration also opposes the bill, saying it doesn’t mesh with the administration’s immigration policy.
The STEM Jobs Act was first voted upon earlier this year under suspension of the rules, wherein a bill needs two-thirds of the House’s approval to pass that chamber. It failed to pass that threshold, but has now been re-introduced.
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