Offshoring remark haunts GOP Senate candidate in Georgia

But is there really much difference between the major parties on H-1B visas?

outsourcing blue glow

Offshore outsourcing doesn't always get much attention in U.S. Senate races, but the issue is pitting two political newcomers against each other in Georgia.

Senate candidate David Perdue, a Republican, is under attack by his Democratic opponent, Michelle Nunn, over his views on outsourcing. Both are seeking the seat being left by retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss, a Republican.

Perdue has worked as a business consultant and CEO, and has positioned himself as someone who has created jobs. But Nunn, the former CEO of a nonprofit, has seized on offshore outsourcing as an issue, particularly after Politico posted a deposition from a 2005 case involving Pillowtex, a textile firm in North Carolina that went bankrupt and laid off some 7,600 people.

In this sworn testimony, Perdue was asked about outsourcing. In response, he said: "I spent most of my career doing that."

In later comments, Perdue said he was "proud" of his outsourcing record, telling the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "This is a part of American business, part of any business. Outsourcing is the procurement of products and services to help your business run. People do that all day."

Nunn said Perdue "was proud of a career in which he spent the majority of his time outsourcing American jobs."

But campaign rhetoric aside, how will these candidates vote in the Senate on the H-1B visa? There may be little difference between them.

Support and opposition to the H-1B visa cuts across party lines. Two of the most outspoken critics of the H-1B visa are Republicans, Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Chuck Grassley of Iowa. Among the Democrats, Dick Durbin of Illinois has joined, in the past, with Grassley on this issue.

The clue of how the Georgia candidates would act is in questions posted by the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG), in which the two candidates were asked about their position on the H-1B visa.

The question from the association was: "Currently in Georgia, and around the nation, there is a shortage of talent to fill open technology positions. TAG feels part of this issue is due to current H1B Visa policies that hinder highly educated foreign students from staying within the United States to work. What is your position on H1B Visas as well as border protection and illegal immigration? Would you be willing to address the H1B visa issue as a standalone issue in Congress?"

Nunn, in her written response, said in part, "Whether as multiple separate bills, or one omnibus bill, we must pass comprehensive reform that achieves all of these goals."

Perdue, in his response, said "I support an improved, streamlined and expanded H1B visa program as economic development tool."

Nunn doesn't say that she would have supported the Senate immigration bill that raised the H-1B cap from 85,000 to 180,000, but she gives no indication in her response that she opposed it. Both candidates say they are willing to take up immigration bills piece meal, which could put them at odds with those in the Senate seeking comprehensive reform.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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